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Starting XI: Fulham vs. Manchester United

The road warrior Reds end a three-match away run at Craven Cottage

Tottenham Hotspur v Fulham - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus

Everything that you need to know ahead of Wednesday’s match:

(1) Honors even at Anfield. Manchester United withstood a dominating first half by Liverpool on Sunday — gaining in confidence until a late flurry of chances nearly saw the visitors leave with all three points. Liverpool’s attack is hardly in sparkling form, but a clean sheet at Anfield is always a worthy accomplishment.

(2) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on how it’s all about Fulham now:

[Drawing at Liverpool] is only a good result if we win the next game. It was an opportunity missed with the chances we had, but then again we were playing a very good side. I’m disappointed, but still a point is OK if you win the next one.

(3) Luke Shaw handily won his battle with Mo Salah on Sunday — and, assuming that both clubs intend to play full-strength sides in the FA Cup next week, Solskjaer might want to give Shaw a breather against Fulham. Alex Telles has been steady in limited appearances and could provide an extra attacking thrust against a Fulham defense that will likely be sitting back.

(4) By kickoff on Wednesday, Manchester United could be third in the table. Manchester City play Aston Villa that day in their game in hand and could (hopefully briefly) go top with a win. Leicester City also have a chance to move above the Reds with a win against Chelsea on Tuesday, but they will have played an extra game.

(5) Fulham enter Wednesday’s match four points adrift from safety, though with two games in hand on Brighton above them. Before losing to Chelsea at the weekend, the Cottagers had drawn five Premier League matches in a row, showing an ability to grind out results against top teams (like Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur) that just might end up saving their season.

(6) This uptick in form has come in large part due to manager Scott Parker’s decision to switch from a back four to a back five. Fulham allowed ten goals in their first three Premier League matches, before Parker reinforced the backline with an additional central defender. Since then, they’ve conceded just six total goals in matches against Leicester City, Manchester City, Liverpool, Spurs, and Chelsea. Ola Aina, Tosin Adarabioyo, and Joachim Anderson play at center back, with Kenny Tete on the right and Antonee Robinson on the left — though the USA international is suspended for the Manchester United match.

(7) Parker got the defense sorted out, but he’s still got work to do up front. Fulham have scored just 14 goals this season — one of the lowest marks in the Premier League. Aleksandr Mitrovic, Ademola Lookman, and Ivan Cavaleiro haven’t scored enough, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek remains a work in progress after an injury-plagued 2019/20 season. Bobby Decordova-Reid provides an attacking spark from midfield with six goals in all competitions, but he must serve a one-match suspension against Manchester United for yellow card accumulation.

(8) It’s been a crazy few weeks for Fulham. Their December 30 match against Spurs was called off at the last minute because of a Covid-19 outbreak in the Cottagers camp — and was then similarly rescheduled on short notice last week. Fulham shook off the unusual circumstances to rally for a 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

(9) The heavy workload caught up with Fulham this weekend. They seemed to be growing into the game against Chelsea on Saturday, until a rash challenge from Antonee Robinson left them a man down for the entire second half. The Cottagers hung on valiantly, but a late Mason Mount strike kept Fulham mired in the bottom three. That also means no Robinson on Wednesday night.

(10) Ruben Loftus-Cheek joined Fulham on a season-long loan from Chelsea and could play a big role in the club’s push for top-flight survival. The 24-year-old missed most of last season with a ruptured achilles tendon and has been brought along slowly at Craven Cottage with just ten starts so far. As he gets further and further from that devastating injury, Fulham will likely give him more and more playing time in the second half of the season. And, with the Fulham squad already stretched to the breaking point, RLC should be a surefire starter on Wednesday — since he sat out at the weekend against his parent club.

(11) Scott Parker on Fulham’s busy schedule:

We’ve been under it for the last two weeks — we’ve had a game which we didn’t expect. We’ve had to push players this week in the sense after Tottenham some players had one day of training after being ill for ten days. It was always going to be difficult, but this is where we are. We’ll be fine. We’ll do our recoveries, get our markers all done, and come with another committed performance on Wednesday.