Fulham and West Brom meet again, but this time in England’s top division. Unsurprisingly, both teams are in and around the bottom three and will be desperate to secure their first three points of the season.
West Brom come off the back of a mighty second half performance against Brighton, where they would have felt they deserved the victory come the end, while Fulham fell to a 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
There were signs of life from both teams in their previous matches: Matheus Pereira went close twice against Brighton, as did Filip Krovinovic, while summer signing Karlan Grant got off the mark in just his second game.
Fulham also looked positive against Palace, dominating with 70% possession and were unlucky to lose.
Team News and Predicted XI
Fulham manager Scott Parker said he is expecting a tough game, and I do not think he is wrong. Both managers will be desperate for their sides to get off the mark – can either side really afford to go into international break without a win?
However, while both will want to win, neither will want to lose, so an ‘all-out-attack’ approach may be unwise.
It is likely Dara O’Shea will at least come back into the squad after a minor ankle injury, and it would not be a surprise to see Kieran Gibbs back in the starting 11 to offer a bit more going forward down the left.
Jake Livermore, Conor Gallagher and Filip Krovinovic will likely stay in midfield as will Grady Diangana, Grant and Pereira in attack.
Parker will be boosted by Joachim Andersen’s return to training, though he will likely start on the bench having been out since his summer transfer from Lyon.
Neeskens Kebano remains injured, as does Terence Kongolo, while Aboubakar Kamara starts a three game suspension following his red card against Palace.
The Game Plan
Like Parker said, it will be a close game – although both are desperate for a win, a loss would be even worse. A draw for West Brom, away from home, would not be the worst result either.
But with Spurs coming up next and Manchester United after the international break, three points could prove vital.
This is why I believe Bilic will start Gibbs and Furlong, to provide attacking support for Diangana and Pereira. This will also allow Pereira into more central areas, where he is so often more effective.
And with Fulham’s defence clearly their weak point, Bilic will look to exploit it.
Aleksander Mitrovic will have be kept quiet though and cannot be underestimated. Ahmed Hegazi saw to that back in July, towards the end of the Championship season, but with him now in Egypt, Ivanovic will likely be tasked with keeping his compatriot quiet.
Score Prediction: Fulham 1-2 West Brom