Fulham-Manchester City Preview
Manchester City will attempt to close the gap at the top of the Premier League when they welcome Fulham to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Manuel Pellegrini’s City (19-3-5) have three games in hand over league-leaders Chelsea and are just six points off the top. However, recent exits from both the Champions League and FA Cup – at the hands of Barcelona and Wigan, respectively – as well as dropped league points to Chelsea and Norwich have seen the division’s richest club struggle to live up to the mantle of title favourites.
An early red card for captain Vincent Kompany away at Hull City last weekend threatened to add to City’s woes, but their ten men performed exceptionally well to win 2-0 on Humberside and keep the club’s title chances very much still alive.
"If you want to win the title, you need your leaders to be at their best, on and off the field," said City’s assistant coach Patrick Vieira. "When you look at our first team, there are so many strong characters, and so many leaders.
"There are different ways of being a leader – some are leaders on the field, and some outside of it. But as a team, the way we performed at Hull was a strong message, because to get a red card after 10 minutes and still win showed we are really strong.
"It was not just about character but the way we dictated the game, controlled it, that was fantastic. That game showed a really strong message."
Saturday’s visitors (7-3-20) are bottom of the table with just eight games remaining, but a crucial 1-0 win over Newcastle United last weekend has given Fulham hope of avoiding the drop under new manager Felix Magath.
"I hope the last game has given us more confidence so that we not only fight, but that we can also take part in the game," said Magath. "I don’t want the team to go back and only defend, I want us to go forward.
"You always have a chance, even in such difficult games as Man City. I think we can defend very well and so if we make it difficult for Man City to score then I think we’ll get a chance to score ourselves. But I think Man City now has the chance to go for the championship and that is what they will have in mind, so I think it will not be so easy for us to win there."
Man City have injury doubts over Micah Richards, Stefan Jovetic (hamstring), Matija Nastasic (knee) and Sergio Aguero (hamstring), while Kompany will serve his one-game suspension. Fulham have concerns over the fitness of Konstantinos Mitroglou (knee), Ashkan Dejagah (groin), Georgios Karagounis, Scott Parker (knee) and Damien Duff (knee).
City ran out 4-2 winners when these teams met at Craven Cottage in December, although the Londoners did give Pellegrini’s side a scare by coming back from 2-0 down to draw level, only for Jesus Navas and James Milner to score late on.
Fulham are without a win in six away from home and have picked up just a single point on the road against top-half teams. Only Norwich (36) have conceded more goals on their travels than the Cottagers’ 34.
City have found the net in all but one of their last 63 home league matches. Nobody can match City’s home tally of 43 goals, while only Arsenal (seven) have conceded fewer than City’s nine on their own patch.