So here we go, the first matchday preview on Roker Report, a mighty ding-dong in That London with Mark Hughes' Fulham side...
SAFC Team News
I can't foresee any shocks across the the back five. Gordon will obviously continue in goal, with Bardsley at left back, Onouha at right back and a pairing of John The Crock (Mensah) and Anton Ferdinand in the middle.
Across midfield and up front, it gets a bit more tricky. I can see Bruce persisting with the team that lumbered to victory over West Ham, but from a personal standpoint, that's got to be changed.
Cattermole is a given in central midfield, and I'd partner him with Bolo Zenden, who has been outstanding of late. The Richardson Experiment continued against West Ham, with him playing back in the middle, and to be honest, he looked lost. Fulham are going to come at us with everything and an experienced head like Bolo's could make the difference. Richardson can always come on for the last 30 minutes when his legs have given up. There's always a wildcard option with Riveros too.
Out wide, its got to be clear to Steve 'Brucey' Bruce that Welbeck isn't a wide player. Against West Ham he lacked the tenacity and threat which he showed when played through the middle. With that in mind though, who can replace him? Henderson? Malbranque? I'd run with Malbranque. He's been off the boil, and rightly benched, but it's a squad game these days and we've a lot of fixtures over the festive period. Plus, what an opportunity for Steed to recapture his form, back on his old stomping ground.
Up front, Bent looks way off the pace following his injury, and in the mean time Gyan & Welbeck formed a partnership that looked almost as good as Sir Niall & SKP in their heyday. Darren Bent is clearly the clubs No.1 striker, but for the first time in God knows how many years, we have options, and for me Bent becomes an impact sub until one of Gyan or Welbeck lose for or are injured.
Gordon; Bardsley, Onouha, Ferdinand, Mensah; Malbranque, Cattermole, Henderson, Zenden, Malbranque; Gyan, Welbeck.
Bruce's Probable Team:
Gordon; Bardsley, Onouha, Ferdinand, Mensah; Henderson, Cattermole, Richardson, Welbeck; Gyan, Bent
From the Fulham side:
Alright, I haven't seen much of them in all honesty, so I'm in no position to comment, but this is the internet, and well thought-out opinions aren't welcome, so I'm going to anyway.
I'm a bit worried about two players for them. First up, Diomansy Kamara. The man has been somewhat of an enigma. Looks a world beater, looks a clown. Who will turn up on Saturday? Knowing our luck, the world beater. Mensah, I support fully to take him out the game, but Ferdinand, not so much. His lapses in concentration cost us points, and lets be honest, he's due a major cock up. I can totally see Anton having a mid-match nap and Kamara running through on Gordon.
Second of all, Brede Hangeland. It's not that I think he'll keep Gyan & Co quiet, he won't. Its at the other end. He's bloody massive, and with Gordon back to his flapping best, plus Turner being out, I can see the massive bastard popping up in the last few minutes to nick an equalizer or steal all three points.
Here's hoping I'm proved wrong.
Fulham as a team, with manager Mark Hughes, have turned into the draw specialists, and really could do with all three. In my head, I can see them getting them.
However with my SAFC glasses on, I'm going for a 2-1 win for the lads. Gyan powering one in from close range after 30 minutes, Kamara equalizing while Anton's Nytol kicks in shortly before half time. SAFC flying out of the blocks in the second half, Welbeck hits them on the break. And of course it wouldn't be SAFC if we didn't endure a nervy finish to the match with Fulham having clear penalties denied, hitting the post and what have you.
Lets see us solidify a top half position. Ha'way the lads.