Thursday night football’s curtain raiser will see Fulham, who are looking to snap a three-game winless streak, trade tackles with out-of-sorts Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.
After winning just one of their last four top-flight matches (L3), conceding 11 goals in the process, Marco Silva’s side came from behind twice to rescue a point in a 2-2 draw with Bournemouth last weekend.
Issa Diop, who joined the Cottagers from West Ham United last summer, could not have picked a better time to score his debut goal for the club as his 22nd-minute header cancelled out Dominic Solanke’s early opener.
Jefferson Lerma put the Cherries back in front just before the half-hour mark. However, the in-form Aleksandar Mitrovic converted from the penalty spot seven minutes after halftime, ensuring both sides share the spoils.
The draw with their ex-Championship rivals saw Fulham slip out of the top half of the table and down to 11th place, but they could secure a swift return with a win over under-fire Steven Gerrard’s Villa side.
The Liverpool legend is the latest manager whose future hangs in the balance, and his side desperately needs goals and points.
The Villans fell to a 2-0 defeat at home to Chelsea last weekend, but it was not a scoreline that reflected their spirited performance.
Gerrard’s side lost the possession stats but created several dangerous situations when they had the ball. They had more shots on targets (7) and missed more big chances (4) than the Blues.
However, coupled with an inspiring performance from Chelsea’s new number 1 Kepa Arrizabalaga between the sticks, Villa lacked the cutting edge they needed to hurt the Blues.
Their inability to score goals has been the theme of their campaign thus far, as only goal-shy Wolverhampton Wanderers (3.5%) have a lower shot conversion rate in the league than Villa (6%), who have scored just seven goals from 116 attempts.
However, Villa will feel confident of getting a result against Fulham after completing the double over the Cottagers two seasons ago, winning by an aggregate score of 6-1.
Silva will hang his hopes on his talismanic striker Mitrovic who has been in imperious form this season. The Serbian has scored 50 league goals since the start of last season, and 29 of those have come in home games.
Mitrovic has carried his impressive Craven Cottage form into the season and has netted nine times in his last eight home appearances.
His form could come in handy for a Fulham side looking to return to winning ways and boost their survival hopes.
Fulham have never lost consecutive home games against Villa, and they will not be looking to start now, but they have won just two of their last 17 midweek fixtures (D7, L8).
However, they seem to be improving those stats after getting the better of Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 in their only midweek game this term.
Their next three fixtures, including Thursday’s meeting with Villa, will see them take on clubs below them on the table, including Leeds United and Everton.
Those fixtures will be an opportunity to build momentum and pick up valuable points before successive games against Manchester City and Manchester United in November.
Fulham have lost just one of their five games at Craven Cottage thus far (W2, D2), and scoring goals on home soil has not been an issue for Silva’s side.
They have already netted ten times at home, one more than they managed in their previous top-flight campaign in 2020/21 (nine goals in 19 home games).
They have also scored in their last eight league games, their longest run since they scored in nine consecutive fixtures between September and November in 2012.
However, their defensive record could be a beacon of hope for their visitors, who have struggled to score consistently, as Fulham have also shipped in 11 goals in those five home fixtures and conceded in nine of their last ten league games.
The Villa hierarchy may have thrown their weight around Gerrard, but after just one win in their last eight league games (D3, L4), where they have managed just five goals, the former Rangers boss will be judged on upcoming games, including Thursday’s showdown with Fulham.
Brentford and Newcastle United will come next, and if the results show no improvements, the former Liverpool midfielder could be sent packing.
Having won home and away league games against Fulham the last time the sides met, Villa could secure a third successive win against the Cottagers, a feat they last achieved in 2004.
However, the Villans’ unconvincing record against newly promoted sides could prove otherwise, as they have won just two of their last nine league games against such teams (D3, L4), with both of those victories coming against Norwich last season.
Since the start of last season, Villa have lost seven of their eight away league games against London clubs (W1).
They have also conceded in their last 12 top-flight visits to the capital. But on the bright side, they have only failed to score in one of their previous 17 visits.
Fulham vs Aston Villa Predicted Line-ups
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Bernd Leno; Bobby Reid, Issa Diop, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson; Joao Palhinha, Tom Cairney; Daniel James, Andreas Pereira, Neeskens Kebano; Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Aston Villa (4-3-2-1): Emiliano Martinez; Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings, Ashley Young; John McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Jacob Ramsey; Emiliano Buendia, Philippe Coutinho; Ollie Watkins.
How to Watch?
Fulham vs Aston Villa, alongside all other fixtures in England’s top flight, is available to watch online via live Premier League streams.
Fulham vs Aston Villa Prediction
If Villa’s performance against Chelsea is anything to go by, Gerrard may have a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
There will be an element of pressure on both sides to win but more for Villa as defeat could see them slip into the bottom three.
Fulham have been impressive on home territory, but the Villans could spring a surprise or two and nab a win against the Cottagers.
Fulham 1-2 Aston Villa
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