Preview: City v Fulham
Fulham return to Eastlands a month after their defeat in the Carling Cup, but this time City will be facing Roy Hodgson’s first choice side. The blues made hard work of the extra-time win with a jaded performance coming a few days after the defeat at Old Trafford.
This time Fulham could be tired ones after playing on Monday night, then entertaining Roma in the Europa League on Thursday. It would be a mistake to consider them a pushover though. Hodgson did his best to rotate the team against Roma with the likes of Zamora and Duff only playing for a portion of the game. A bit of tiredness won’t affect their organisation, and breaking down Fulham is no easy task these days.
Having said that, Mark Hughes has sufficient fit players who, with a week’s rest, should have to much for the London side. Pablo Zabaleta may be suspended, but Micah Richards should have no doubt that he has to perform to his full potential if he is to hold onto his place. He needs to win his battles against the likes of Duff and Kamara.
Kolo Toure looks set to return to the middle of defence, with Vincent Kompany poised to step in if required. Otherwise the Belgian is likely to be on the bench as he eases back to full match fitness.
Wayne Bridge and Gareth Barry both looked to be feeling the effects of a midweek game for England in below-par performances against Wigan. Hopefully a week at Eastlands will see them back to their best.
Nigel de Jong was probably our best performer against Wigan, but Steven Ireland will be desperate to get back into the starting eleven. We’re likely to need a bit of guile to break down Fulham and it will be interesting to see if Hughes finds a place for last season’s player of the year.
If Adebayor is fit, Hughes is likely to continue with the Togolese and improving Carlos Tevez up front. Hopefully they can start to show some kind of understanding soon.
That just leaves the wings and another big decision for Hughes if, as expected, Craig Bellamy is fit. Martin Petrov was dropped after scoring against West Ham, and the same fate could befall him again if Hughes decides to play Bellamy on the left.
Petrov may feel that Wright-Phillips is the one who should be ‘rotated’, and there is definitely a case for Hughes to go with the greater attacking threat that the Bulgarian provides over Shaun, who is struggling to find his best form.
“It’s a long season and there will be occasions when I have to take people out of the team just to give them the chance to rest or recover. We are at the beginning of the season and it was important to make a steady start.
“We have been able to do that and it made more sense to be able to keep a more settled side, but as the season progresses we will make changes along the way.”
If Petrov and Bellamy do play, it is hoped that the Welshman gets to take the set-pieces. Petrov’s delivery is erratic and it was noticeable how our recently discovered threat from dead ball situations was missing against Wigan. It was headed goals from a free-kick and a corner that saw off Fulham in the Carling Cup.
“If our dream is to be in the top four, we have to win all our home games. We are giving ourselves a great chance of doing that, because we always create plenty of chances at home and so far we have taken maximum points. We have to look to keep that going, and we have a good opportunity to do that against Fulham.”
After two successsive draws, it’s imperative for City to get back to winning ways if we’re to maintain a challenge for the top four. In this regard, the game against Wigan was two points dropped as we didn’t do enough to win the game prior to Zabaleta’s sending off. A better performance is to be hoped for after a week together on the training pitches at Carrington.
Prediction: 3-0 to City
Possible line-up: Given, Bridge, Lescott, Toure, Richards, de Jong, Barry, Bellamy, Wright-Phillips, Tevez, Adebayor.