There`s no doubt about it – Mark Hughes will be desperate to make a point to his former employers after feeling unfairly dismissed from the job last December. And with City coming into the game off the back of two goalless draws, Hughes couldn`t have wished for a better opportunity.
‘Fulham have got a decent team. They’ve lost Moussa Dembele injured again – and they missed him earlier in the season – but Dickson Etuhu, Kelvin’s brother, has been doing well for them.
“They’ve got other good players too – Clint Dempsey, Brede Hangeland, Zoltan Gera – so it’s going to be a tough afternoon. They’ll be looking to beat us, and we’ll have to make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s going to be a hard game but we’re looking forward to it, and may the best team win.
‘It will be nice to see Mark Hughes again. There was all sorts of talk about me and the manager having our differences and stuff like that, but he knew my ability and was just trying to get the best out of me. In that season I played 45 games for him, so that showed he had some belief in me.’
“It will be nice to see Mark Hughes again and all the coaching staff. I respect and like Mark, but as soon as the game kicks off I will only be thinking of helping my team win. I`ve nothing personal against anybody at Fulham but the only thing I want is for City to win, nothing else. I won`t be thinking of Mark or anyone else once the game begins – and besides, he won`t even be on the pitch!
“Things have always gone well for me on a personal level at Craven Cottage so I always feel confident when I play there, it`s a traditional English ground with a great atmosphere and I know we`ll have a lot of our supporters there so we need to go to Fulham thinking only of winning.
“I feel we are close to finding our form and I believe when we play at our best and find some consistency, we`ll win five or six in a row and really challenge the teams above us. We have to have patience because it will take time. We were as disappointed as anybody with the result against Birmingham but a win on Sunday will make everybody smile again and we`ll be doing our best to make sure that happens.”
“I left almost a year ago and once the door on my career at Manchester City closed I moved on. I`ve got a new challenge here at Fulham and I`ve got great support from the Chairman and CEO Alistair Mackintosh. It`s a good Club and has the structures in place which will enable me to be successful. That`s my focus now.
“I`ve said many times when I first joined Fulham that I was impressed with what I found here. The infrastructure in place is of a top-five club, with great people who offer 100% support to the football team. I`m loving my time here.
‘What we will do [preparation] for Manchester City is what we would do for any game. We`ll look at their strengths and weaknesses and make sure we`re physically and mentally prepared for the challenge ahead, irrespective of whether it`s Manchester City or any other club.”
Fulham Team News:
Fulham have a few injury problems but are happy to welcome back Carlos Salcido after 3 weeks out with damaged ankle ligaments. Salcido is unlikely to play the full ninety minutes but should start the game. Fellow defender Chris Baird should return after missing the last two games with a torn thigh. Moussa Demble has been ruled out for three weeks with ankle trouble and will take up his place on the sideline with long term absentee Bobby Zamora who isn’t scheduled to return until late February, at best.
Probable Fulham Team:
2) Kelly – 18) Hughes – 5) Hangeland – 3) Salcido
29) Davies – 27) Greening – 13) Murphy – 11) Gera
23) Dempsey – 8) Johnson
Player to watch: Clint Dempsey
With Andy Johnson still attempting to find his feet after such a long lay -off, and with both Dembele and Zamora missing through injury; Fulham`s biggest goal threat comes from Clint Dempsey who has netted three times in his last two starts against City. I expect the American to play up top, maybe lining up just behind Johnson. Like us, Fulham don`t score many goals but expect Dempsey to cause our defence the most problems with his excellent control and good long range shooting.
Manchester City Team News:
This is the final game of Mario Balotelli`s three match suspension, the Italian will return against Stoke next weekend. So expect this to be the last match in which Tevez is required to play that lone striker role in a while, hopefully anyway. Both Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards are out after picking up injuries on International duty with England whilst Boateng should remain at right back despite some having some trouble this week.
Michael Johnson is closing-in on a return to the first team after a lengthy lay-off but he will probably not be available for another month yet. Joe Hart has overcome a back injury that kept him out of England`s friendly with France, so should start tomorrow whilst our captain marvel should lead the line on our travels.
In terms of team I`m expecting Mancini to name the same side that drew with Birmingham last week, Johnson has a point to prove whilst Barry illustrated his plummeting value to his country in midweek. Therefore I`m expecting to see City line up something like the following:
Probable City Team:
17) Boateng – 28) K Toure – 4) Kompany – 13) Kolarov
34) de Jong – 42) Y Toure
11) A Johnson – 21) Silva – 7) Milner
Player to watch: James Milner
Despite setting up more goal scoring opportunities than any of his teammates, James Milner has been relatively average since arriving from Villa. He`s made 12 starts in Blue but has yet to bag a goal for his new club. And for a player of his calibre and nature that really isn`t good enough – he needs to start chipping in with the goals. The Yorkshire man is a great player to have; he can play in a number of positions, he always gives his all and he is the ultimate team player. But like Silva he needs to be more selfish and incisive in the final third because like the Spaniard, he`s more than capable of doing so.
Match Facts & Stats
Fulham are without a home win against Manchester City in four attempts since a 2-1 victory in November 2005 (D2, L2).
Clint Dempsey has scored three goals in his last two starts against Manchester City.
Mark Hughes won 36, drew 16 and lost 25 of his 77 matches in charge of Manchester City from 2008 to 2009.
Fulham have only earned one win in nine league games, drawing five.
Roberto Mancini’s side have kept seven clean sheets in the league this season, second only to Chelsea (eight) prior to the weekend.
City have not scored in the second half of their last five league matches.
City are the only side yet to score a headed Premier League goal this season. Their last top-flight header came from an unlikely source – Shaun Wright-Phillips against West Ham on the final day of last season.
After two boring, subdued performances that have both resulted in goalless draws, the travelling City fans will be hoping for some quick counterattacking football against Hughes` side. Currently, we`re playing better on the road than we are at Eastlands – this is probably because teams tend to be more adventurous at home which suits our more conserved style of play. Therefore, I`m expecting a cagey start due to all the hype surrounding the game with the Hughes v Mancini situation, but I think City will slowly ease into the game and will just edge it due the lack of quality at Fulham`s disposal. However, if Mancini opts for his favoured 4-5-1 then I predict that we`ll be unsuccessful in our attempts to break down a London outfit with two distinct banks of four. All signposts at this game are pointing to yet another draw but I think City can snatch this one, just. Prediction: Fulham 1 – 2 MCFC
Saturday, 27th November v Stoke @ 15:00 (A)
Wednesday, 1st December v Salzburg @ 20:05 – EUROPE (H)