Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Premier League clash between Manchester City and Fulham, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Manchester City welcome Fulham to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon with both sides coming into the match off the back of much-needed Premier League victories.
The return of fans will have to wait in Manchester, but City at least have the chance to make a significant climb up the table as they host the newly-promoted Cottagers.
However unpredictable, unprecedented and illogical the 2020-21 season has been so far, you would have still got long odds on Manchester City sitting in the bottom half of the table more than a quarter of the way into the campaign.
Pep Guardiola‘s side have unquestionably been a few steps off their best so far this term, and coming into this match their record of two wins from their last five league games is actually the same as opponents Fulham.
Things are not quite as bad as they might seem on first glance, though, and victory in this match could lift Man City from 11th all the way into the top four, while they also boast a game in hand over most other teams in the league.
Two of City’s most reliable traits – consistency and goalscoring – have deserted them so far in 2020-21, but Guardiola will be hopeful that last weekend’s 5-0 win over Burnley marks an end to that.
Those five goals were as many as they had managed in their previous six top-flight games, while victory over Fulham would give them back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time this season.
The goals were lacking again during Tuesday night’s 0-0 Champions League draw at Porto but, given that Man City have already booked their place in the last 16, Guardiola will not be too concerned by their profligacy in Portugal.
What he will be concerned about is Man City winning only three of their last eight Premier League games, although they will be firm favourites to improve that statistic at home to Fulham this weekend.
The Citizens have won their last seven home games against promoted teams by an aggregate score of 21-1, and are unbeaten in their last 39 such matches stretching back to February 2007. Should they avoid defeat on Saturday then only Chelsea, with a 43-game streak between 2001 and 2015, would have had a longer such run in Premier League history.
Fulham will no doubt go into the match knowing that any points they can get at the Etihad would be regarded as an unexpected bonus, although Monday night’s 2-1 triumph away to Leicester City will have raised belief that they can come away with something.
The Foxes are flying high in the top four and hammered Man City themselves at the Etihad earlier this season, but Fulham produced a shock win at the King Power Stadium to climb out of the relegation zone.
Another win on Saturday would secure back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since April 2019 and successive top-flight away wins in the same season for the first time since May 2011.
That would be some turnaround for a team that lost seven of their opening nine games, and victories at the King Power and the Etihad would see them do so in style too.
However, if they are to achieve that notable double then they will need to overcome a poor record against Man City which has seen them lose all of their last nine meetings by an aggregate score of 27-3.
Fulham’s winless run against the Citizens stretches to 15 games since April 2009 – including 12 defeats – while Man City have only ever failed to score in one of their 26 Premier League meetings with the Cottagers, and that was back in 2004.
Indeed, Fulham have only ever won four of their Premier League meetings with Man City in the past, although they may take a shred of comfort from the fact that three of those wins did come at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City Premier League form: WDWDLW
Manchester City form (all competitions): WDLWWD
Fulham Premier League form: DLWLLW
Man City will assess the fitness of club-record goalscorer Sergio Aguero ahead of this match, with the striker having missed the last two games due to a knee injury.
Guardiola has insisted that the problem is not too serious, but Gabriel Jesus is set to lead the line after sitting out in midweek.
Nathan Ake returned to the bench for the trip to Porto, meaning that Aguero is Man City’s only injury concern head into the busy December schedule.
Riyad Mahrez will be expecting to start again after his hat-trick against Burnley saw him move to the top of Man City’s scoring charts for the season.
Fulham manager Scott Parker will be without Kenny Tete once again, although the full-back is not too far away from returning.
Terence Kongolo and Joshua Onomah could be back in contention, though, while Parker must decide whether to once again leave out Aleksandar Mitrovic and Tom Cairney after both were dropped to the bench on Monday night.
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Mendy; Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Torres; Jesus
Fulham possible starting lineup:
Areola; Cordova-Reid, Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson; Loftus-Cheek, Reed, Anguissa, Lookman; Cavaleiro
We say: Manchester City 3-0 Fulham
Fulham have massively improved at the back since the early weeks of the season, but a trip to face Man City at the Etihad Stadium remains one of the toughest tests in English football and we cannot see anything other than a comfortable home win.
The Cottagers should take huge confidence from Monday’s win at Leicester, but with Man City having rediscovered their ruthless streak in front of goal last weekend we can see the hosts cruising to victory once again.
Top betting tip
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