We may be entering festive season but it’s no time to be jolly for either side as two of the League’s most out-of-form clubs meet at Craven Cottage tonight.
The hosts dispensed of Martin Jol after 6 consecutive defeats in all competitions, with Rene Meulensteen promoted from head coach to manager in an attempt to inspire their flailing stars.
The grass isn’t much greener at White Hart Lane, however. Under-fire Andre Villas-Boas is desperately seeking a victory, with his charges having failed to register a win in the League since a close victory over Hull on October 27th. Despite spending over £100m in the summer in an attempt to replace Gareth Bale, the Lilywhites sit in 9th, a win behind Liverpool in 4th and 10 points behind rivals Arsenal, who currently top the league.
However, both sides have been rejuvenated in recent days, with Spurs satisfying their supporters with an exciting and free-flowing draw against the reigning champions, whilst Fulham will be hoping that the appointment of Meulensteen will get their aging stars performing once again.
If football were played on paper, then Tottenham would win this match by a couple of goals. But this Premier League season has arguably seen the most upsets yet, with ‘no-hopers’ like Cardiff, Aston Villa and West Ham finding unlikely victories against Manchester City, Arsenal, and Tottenham respectively. Complacency will need to be guarded against for Spurs as nothing can be taken for granted. Especially as the Fulham players will be desperate to impress Meulensteen with their hard work.
Being asked to predict the line-ups is a nightmare in this instance. The Cottagers will no doubt be shaken up by the new man Meulensteen, eager to impose his visions onto the team, whilst the visitors have been chopping and changing week upon week, with AVB making full use of his elite 25 man squad. However, here is my best guess at the 22 players that will start tonight.
Fulham: Stekelenburg; Zverotic, Hughes, Hangeland, Richardson; Parker, Sidwell; Kasami, Taarabt, Dembele; Berbatov.
Tottenham: Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Kaboul, Vertonghen; Sandro, Dembele; Townsend, Holtby, Lamela; Soldado.
As you may have noticed from the line-ups, there are two ‘Dembele’s; indeed, Fulham have a young French midfielder called Moussa Dembele (2 ‘S’s in the forename), whereas Spurs have the Belgian central midfielder Mousa Dembele (1 ‘S’ in the forename). I await the commentators’ confusion with glee.
Fulham are full of maverick footballers; who knows which Kasami, Taarabt or Berbatov will turn up? The hosts proved last year that they can beat their North London counterparts, with a Berbatov flick sealing the 3 points at the Lane in April. But Spurs arguably possess more creative quality, with Townsend, Holtby and Lamela, whilst not fulfilling their potential yet, having immense ability. And Roberto Soldado, whilst currently struggling in front of goal, will surely click at some point.