Fulham V Aston Villa at Craven Cottage : Match Preview

08 December 2013 10:42
Fulham V Aston Villa - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Ferguson influence at Fulham

Rene Meulensteen hopes to transfer Sir Alex Ferguson's thirst for a challenge into his fight to keep Fulham in the Barclays Premier League.

Meulensteen has admitted he will draw heavily on Manchester United great Ferguson's influence to drag the Cottagers away from the drop zone.

Fulham's new Dutch boss was Ferguson's chief lieutenant at Old Trafford, operating as first-team coach from 2007 until David Moyes' arrival in the summer.

And Meulensteen said of all the lessons his former boss imparted in those six years, the decorated Scot prized guts above all else.

Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage on Sunday, looking to arrest their six-game league losing streak and record a first victory for their new manager.

Meulensteen said: "I've been fortunate to sit alongside one of the most successful managers in Sir Alex Ferguson.

"He taught me a lot but the one thing that stood by me, in life, in football: you're faced constantly by challenges.

"You want challenges, and sometimes they are in adversity.

"The most important thing is to accept the challenge, embrace the challenge, and enjoy taking that challenge on.

"And that is what we're prepared to do.

"I will definitely draw into the experiences that I've had of Sir Alex Ferguson.

"I've spent a long time working with top, top players: hard work and the good work that will go in will eventually manifest itself on the pitch."

Meulensteen will tell his Fulham charges to be wary of Villa's own experiences of battling a rough Premier League ride.

The Fulham manager praised Villa counterpart Paul Lambert for fighting early-tenure fires through placing his faith in youth.

Meulensteen expects another exacting test against the Villa Park outfit, but said if his side equal the commitment showed in Wednesday's 2-1 Spurs defeat they will always have a chance of victory.

He said: "Villa is a good team.

"Paul Lambert was in a similar situation last year, he chose to really put out an energetic young team, he's gone through that and we have to deal with that.

"Every club and every manager is different, but I think we can all agree that every positive result or performance always starts with hard work, commitment and discipline, and that's what we got on Wednesday against Spurs."

Brede Hangeland will miss six weeks' action after surgery to correct a nerve problem in his right leg and so will miss the clash,

Defender Phillipe Senderos will face a fitness test after playing through a thigh strain in Wednesday's 2-1 home defeat to Tottenham, and Fernando Amorebieta is also doubtful.

Loan striker Darren Bent is unable to play due to Fulham facing his parent club. The Villa forward has a hamstring strain in any case. Kieran Richardson is a doubt with hamstring trouble.

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert believes the pressure has been eased on under-fire Christian Benteke thanks to the goalscoring exploits of his team-mates.

After scoring five goals in his first seven appearances this season, Benteke has failed to find the net since returning towards the end of October after a month on the sidelines with a hip injury.

Without a goal for 485 minutes, Benteke was on the bench for Wednesday's 3-2 victory at Southampton as Villa stretched their unbeaten run to five matches.

There is a possibility Benteke could be restored to the starting line-up for Sunday's Barclays Premier League game at struggling Fulham.

In his absence at the St Mary's Stadium, however, both Libor Kozak and Gabriel Agbonlahor were on the scoresheet.

In fact, in Villa's last four matches in which they have scored seven goals there have been six different scorers.

With the goals being spread around, it means Lambert is far less concerned with Benteke's drought than might otherwise have been the case.

"It stops people from saying 'Christian Benteke, will he (score) in this one, or that one'. It becomes a side issue," said Lambert.

"We've 25 lads or so who contribute, and we've been scoring goals from all over the pitch - even the two full-backs have scored.

"The midfield lads have scored, other forwards have scored. You can't always rely on Christian to score.

"We're playing with a lot of confidence at the moment, and the lads are scoring."

Skipper Ron Vlaar is doubtful with a calf injury that forced him off in the midweek win at Southampton, whilst Antonio Luna is struggling with a groin problem, added to which Joe Bennett continues to recover from a back issue that has kept him out since the end of September.

Source: PA