Manchester City vs Fulham Preview
Manchester City were boasted as odds on favourites to lift the Premier League trophy again this season, and given their utter dominance in the league last term, it was an understandable assessment.
However, there are a few concerning signs that things might not be quite so straightforward this season. Both Liverpool and Chelsea have started the season fantastically with four wins from four in the league, and while Manchester City are still an incredible outfit, they have had a few troubles breaking teams down this term. Their 2-0 defeat of Arsenal and 6-1 demolition of Huddersfield were both navigated with apparent ease, but their trip to the Molineux was less successful. Wolves showed that a high pressing game plan could force The Citizens into mistakes, and they were rewarded for their efforts with a 1-1 draw against the champions.
Newcastle posed a different problem, sitting back deep and absorbing pressure to try and quell the attacking talents of Pep Guardiola’s squad. It wasn’t quite so successful, but a 2-1 defeat at the Etihad is nothing to be ashamed of, and it shows that Manchester City aren’t quite as dominant as they were last year. Defensively they have looked a bit more vulnerable too, conceding in three of their four games so far this term.
The current incarnation of Fulham have a genuine buzz about them. Fulham aren’t your typical newly promoted side. Rather than playing defensively and seeking to counter-attack, they use possession to get their shot attempts and are even averaging a greater share of the ball than Spurs, United, or Arsenal thus far this season. This will be something that Fulham hope to exploit, especially after finding their feet in the top flight. They opened the season with a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Crystal Palace, but even in their 3-1 loss away to Spurs they showed significant improvements.
Those improvements bore fruit when they beat the out of sorts Burnley 4-2, before their obvious defensive issues saw them lose a two goal lead at Brighton to draw the game. Attacking wise, Fulham look very well equipped indeed. They have scored seven goals so far and summer signing Aleksandar Mitrovic has bagged four of those, so they should give Manchester City’s defenders something to think about. However, at the back there is a real concern. They are yet to keep a clean sheet and have shipped a total of nine goals in their four games, and that sort of weakness will be exploited by the talents of Manchester City.
MANCHESTER CITY :
City remain without Kevin de Bruyne with the Belgium international out until mid-October with a knee injury. Guardiola has confirmed that Sterling is fully recovered from the injury that prevented him from playing for England. Fulham tend to be a very narrow team upfront, hence the width is provided by their full backs and they continue to push up forward in the entire game. This justifies reintroduction of Leroy Sane in the starting 11, If there’s any City player who can exploit the space behind Fulham’s fullbacks, it’s the pacey Sane. Though the fit of Mendy and Sane is a bit awkward, as both tend to occupy the far wide space, Mendy showed against Arsenal that he can operate further infield and still be very effective. Laporte and Stones looked shaky in the game against Newcastle but should be the ideal starters in front of Kompany and Otamendi. City should boss the game after negotiating some initial nervous attacks from Fulham. Once the gates to Fulham’s catastrophe are opened, there would be no stopping for Aguero and Co.
Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney pulled out of the Scotland squad for games against Belgium and Albania due to an ankle injury he suffered in the 4-2 victory over Watford. The club captain is not expected to return until the end of the month. Last season’s player of the year Tim Ream is still to feature this season, although Alfie Mawson started his first game for the club in the top flight in the 2-2 draw with Brighton. Having not been included in the England squad, the Swansea centre-half has had the international break to continue working towards full fitness. Neeskeens Kebano remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Fulham’s system of attacking possession-based football has thrilled the fans sometimes while other times the lack of fluidity in the system has resulted in a complete collapse. Fulham shouldn’t expect much possession especially when they are up against the masters of possession at the Etihad. They should try and find faults in City’s defensive structure and capitalize on it.
Fulham may not be quite as gung-ho as they have been in other matches this season, but it is in their nature to attack. There are none better at attacking than Man City, though, so the hosts should win that battle relatively comfortably. Considering Fulham’s current attacking form you wouldn’t back against them finding the net, but we’re expecting Manchester City’s attacking force to be far too strong for them.