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Behind Enemy Lines | Fulham

The Lions take on the League leaders…

8 February 2022

Peter Rutzler, Fulham reporter for The Athletic, has his say on the hosts ahead of tonight’s London derby.

Marco Silva was appointed in the summer in place of Scott Parker, who left to take charge of Championship rivals, Bournemouth. In his first season, the former Everton man has steered his team to the summit of the League table and has encouraged exciting football at Craven Cottage.

“It has been a fantastic start to the season. It’s gone better than expected I think, despite there being a certain level of expectation with the quality of the squad they have. Promotion was always the target, but they’ve certainly gone beyond that.

“They’ve scored plenty of goals and have created excitement around the club ahead of every game. Silva seems to be getting a lot out of a talented squad. Performances have been enjoyable and Fulham fans are excited.”

Reading and Sheffield United are the only teams to defeat Fulham on their own patch this campaign, and Rutzler believes any team hoping to leave Craven Cottage with maximum points has to be at their best.

“You have to be on you’re A-game. In both matches, the opposition had moments where they produced some real quality in front of goal. The goals Fulham conceded were superb. 

“They both worked off the ball very well. Teams that are aggressive, get after Fulham and stop them from playing always have a chance. This is The Championship after all. Fulham may have achieved some fantastic results, but they have also dropped points. Last week they dropped two against Blackpool at home.

“They’ve suffered heavy defeats too so there is a fallibility to them, but if you show them too much respect, they will punish you.”

Aleksandar Mitrovic & Fábio Carvalho are two of Fulham’s notable stars, but there are plenty of other star players in Silva’s ranks.

“There are plenty of standout performers across the team. I would throw Harry Wilson into the mix. He’s an expensive addition and people are aware of his quality following various spells with Championship clubs like Derby and Cardiff. He’s got pedigree at this level. He’s displayed that in Fulham’s front three.

“Jean Michaël Seri has just returned from AFCON. He has enjoyed something of a renaissance in midfield. His ability to pass the ball and play with the ball at his feet has been really enjoyable. He’s been a key part of this Fulham side.”

A trip to the Etihad at the weekend ended in a 4-1 defeat for Fulham, but the underdogs did have spells against the countries current top side.

“The team will have taken some confidence from their first-half performance. There were some good spells where Fulham dictated the play and created chances – which is not easy to do at The Etihad. Of course, they suffered the same fate that most do when they play Manchester City. They were punished for their errors.

“They’ll be eager to get back after dropping points against Blackpool, they’ll want to get the promotion push back on track and really cement the gap they’ve built at the top of the table.”

The league leaders have already bested The Lions once this season, leaving The Den with all three points back in August.

“I expect Fulham to come out firing tonight. You’d expect them to really come out and play like they did at The Den on the back of their results against City and Blackpool. That was one of the first games people really got a sense of how good Fulham can be. There are moments where they drop off and lack intensity.

“If they have recovered well and if you consider the depth of the squad, you would back them to get a result. I’m always cautious. After a good run they always end up dropping points. That’s not to say Millwall can’t pose them problems.

“We saw that at The Den, despite the brilliant start, Fulham were clinging on for dear life at the end. Anything is possible if Millwall take the game to Fulham.”

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