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Match Preview: Fulham v Aston Villa


ChrisVillan
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At last! Villa return to action in West London.

FA Barclays Premiership

Saturday 3rd March 2007

Craven Cottage

Kick Off 3pm

It's been a while, hasn't it? Last time Villa played it was February 10th away at the Madejski and it was pretty disappointing. Since then the squad has been in Spain for a few days and hopefully have returned a little tighter, rested and ready. The trip to Craven Cottage to face Chris Coleman's Fulham side is seldom an easy one, and an excellent performance against Manchester United last week suggests tomorrow's outing will be no different.

Fulham are currently our nearest neighbours in the league table, both perched as we are on 32 points. We're 13th to their 14th by virtue of a far healthier goal difference - eight goals better in fact. Both clubs are safe from relegation all but mathematically, and I rather doubt either has pretensions of a real push for Europe. The table has been tight all season but pushing from lower mid-table to sixth or seventh between the beginning of March and the end of the season is an unlikely feat for Villa and Fulham.

Fulham have had what I would call a 'Fulham' season. In November they were seen as relegation candidates. Again. And, using a combination of excellent home form - and entertaining football at the Cottage, usually - and hideous negative tactics away from home, they have pulled themselves comfortably away from the relegation battle which I think sees Watford and Charlton down and, West Ham and Wigan both seemingly desperate to continuously shoot themselves in the foot to follow them. Along with the Villa, Fulham are well out of it and, controversially, I believe that's down to good management. There, I said it.

The Craven Cottage side have not really had any particularly notable results this season except a home win against Arsenal. All in all, their results look predictable in hindsight, for example two defeats against Manchester United, plenty of away defeats but they did the double over Newcastle. And yet judging by Lawro's blurb this week Fulham's fans aren't impressed with his predictions. I guess he should just opt for the obvious.

Villa's horrific run throughout the middle part of the season has been followed by a couple of false dawns. Home wins over Watford and West Ham were both followed by defeats away from home, and in both of those losses Villa looked the better side for the bulk of the games. Worrying we started incredibly slowly in both of those matches. With a run of three home games coming up, against Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton, I think it's important to get the tail-end of our season going with three points in London tomorrow, in front of a sell-out away crowd.

The team news is different across all outlets for Villa at the moment, but according to Sky Sports Snooze (R. Branson, 1st March 2007), which for some reason is just striking me as more accurate on this occasion, the big news is the returns to action of Wilfred Bouma, sorely missed at Reading, and Luke Moore, absent for five months and now returning with - hopefully - a properly fixed shoulder. The selection headache up front is just frightening considering our squad pre-January, and I have no idea whether we'll see Luke or not. Perhaps it's time to rethink the strikeforce and arrange for Gabriel Agbonlahor to have a rest. Patrik Berger, Stuart Taylor and JLloyd Samuel have recovered from illness.

The only meaningful (from our point of view) team news for Fulham is: Jan Lastuvka will start with Antti Niemi remaining sidelined, Franck Queudrue is still injured, and Vincenzo Montella is apparently suspended - though I've yet to find any confirmation of this.

I think the key for Villa is to keep Brian McBride at bay. He's superb in the air and if Olly Mellberg and Gary Cahill can win a few headers, and the players around them are awake to the second ball, we should be fine. With the likes of Radzinski and Routledge expected to feature, McBride will be the central focus of Fulham's attacks. That's not to say he's not an impressive goalscorer himself, mind. If the Villa boys perform up front, the Fulham defence shouldn't pose too much of a problem. Let's hope they regret stitching up John Carew and then not signing Shaun Maloney.

Lawro has plumped for a 2-1 away win, and so will I, with goals from McBride, Carew and Barry. However I mean my prediction, whereas Lawro has explicitly only done it so Fulham win. Fool. Sky are predicting a 1-1, which on form I suppose is the logical prediction. I've been waiting for an age for this match and now I just can't wait to get on the train.

Come on you Villa boys!

[CV]

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Let's hope they regret stitching up John Carew and then not signing Shaun Maloney.

Funny you should say that, I was thinking this afternoon about how sweet it would be to say, win 2-0 with them two banging the goals in :thumb:

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Home wins over Watford and West Ham were both followed by defeats away from home, and in both of those losses Villa looked the better side for the bulk of the games.

I'm not sure I agree with that in the case of the Reading game.

Great preview, though.

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I thought we were on top of the Reading game apart from the first 25 minutes when we were absolutely woeful. Just my opinion of course. Mind you it was more because Reading were a bit crap for long periods after a good start.

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