With only three wins in 18 league games since October, Fulham are looking to build on their positive recent performances in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off against Stoke City. The Potters have won just once on their last 22 Premier League trips away from the Britannia Stadium and are desperate to add to just their one win on the road this season.
Martin Jol’s side have gained three points from their last two home fixtures, but last time at Craven Cottage against Manchester United, they were unlucky not to grab either a point or the win. A goalless draw against Norwich City last time out in the Premier League hints towards somewhat of a revival for Fulham, who have been relatively poor so far this season. With just six points separating the Cottagers and the relegation zone, Jol will be hopeful that his side can kickstart a run of positive results, starting with a win over Stoke City.
The trouble for Fulham is their goal supply, having failed to score in three of their last four league games, and Jol will be looking towards Dimitar Berbatov, who is expected to make his 200th Premier League appearance this weekend. Kieran Richardson could make his return from a calf injury after five weeks on the sidelines, but Jol is still without long-term absentees Mahamadou Diarra and Kerim Frei. The clean sheet at Carrow Road was Fulham’s first in 12 league games and there will be emphasis on towering central defender Brede Hangeland to neutralise the aerial threat Stoke offer.
Stoke have struggled this season defensively, normally something Tony Pulis can rely on with his side, and the Potters have gone eight league games without a clean sheet. Last time out, a six-game winless run was ended with victory over Reading at the Britannia Stadium, but away troubles have always dented Pulis’ progress in the Premier League. The last time Stoke won on the road was in December at West Bromwich Albion and a victory over Fulham this weekend would be timely as the Potters look to make a late surge for the Europa League places.
January signing Brek Shea, from MLS side FC Dallas, has recovered from injury and is named in the matchday squad, along with returning defender Marc Wilson. Cameron Jerome has overcome a knee injury to return for the Potters, but Michael Owen is a doubt with a thigh problem suffered in training. Stoke have won just once on their visits to Fulham, which came in May 2010 thanks to Matthew Etherington’s goal in a 1-0 win.
Berbatov’s 200 games in the top-flight have seen 83 goals and Fulham need him to start firing again if they want a top-half finish this season and avoid being pulled into a relegation fight. Stoke’s aerial presence will be a key for Pulis to take a positive result from West London and victory in the early fixture could send the Potters to within three points of seventh placed Liverpool.