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Fan Focus - Fulham (A) Pre-Match Views

Every week I will be aiming to get in contact with fans of the opposition to get their views on the forthcoming match. In addition to this, I'll be following up with them after the match and seeing how they thought things went.

Today, we have two Fulham FC diehards sharing their opinion. First of all, Mitchell Moth, a season ticket holder in the Hammersmith End, and loyal attendee since the age of 11. Secondly, we have Russell Goldman. Russell is from the USA, an avid Fulham fan, and former editor of Cottagers Confidential.

Hi there, pleasure to speak with you. I'll be honest, I've not seen much of Fulham this season so far. How's the season progressing? I've noticed a lot of draws.

Mitchell: The season defining moment is tomorrow for us. If we win, then the season should shape up to be as expected, mid table mediocrity, but if we lose or draw again we will be cut adrift from the mid table teams and West Ham will be a real six pointer on boxing day. A bit depressing to have a must win so early in the season.

Russell: I would say the season isn't progressing as quickly as I would like, but I feel Fulham are still adapting to playing under Hughes and injuries have been a factor. However, I am still encouraged by the style of play Fulham are showing under Hughes, and I am expecting a huge second half to the season. I am hoping for some January additions and Bobby Zamora's return from injury hopefully in February.

Roy Hodgson or Mark Hughes? Hodgson hasn't covered himself in glory at Liverpool as yet, would he have been better off staying put?

Mitchell: Roy Hodgson every day. He took a few months to sort us out and he’ll need that time at Liverpool. Considering the dross Rafa left behind (and look how badly he is doing with Inter!) I don’t think Roy has done a bad job there. His problem will be that he isn’t one of Liverpool’s own and the fans are so fickle that unless he achieves instant success he could soon be out of the door. He’s gone to a club where he is under complete pressure, whereas at Fulham he was a deity. If it all goes wrong up there he could kiss goodbye to the England job, whereas another two years with us finishing mid table would have seen him as a shoe in.

Russell: This answer might surprise you but I would rather have Mark Hughes. Fulham's style is much more positive especially on the road where last season it felt like they were playing for draws. Under Hughes there is no question that they are pushing forward as much as possible. Roy I feel should have stayed. He had a team that he built and was pretty much the same club as last season's. I think he will look back in a few years and might feel he made a mistake.

What do you think will be Hughes' starting XI? and what, if anything, would you do differently?

Mitchell: A lot depends on the fitness of Mousa Dembele. Thankfully he has given Pantsil another go in the side and got over whatever issue he had with Gera. He’s played Briggs at left back against Arsenal and Chelsea away, so it’s about time he gave the youngster a home start. It’ll be Schwarzer in goal, Pantsil at right back and Briggs left back with Hangeland and Hughes at centre half. Don’t be surprised to see Baird at left back though as he played so well there in the last two games replacing Briggs who had a knock. Davies on the right, Dempsey on the left and Dickson Etuhu and Murphy in the middle. Gera will play behind Kamara up top. Duff is out of form and should warm the bench with Dembele coming on as a sub. Ideally Dembele would start, but we’ve rushed him back from injury twice already and it didn’t do him any favours.

Russell: The starting XI I think is as follows: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Baird, Gera, Murphy, Etuhu, Davies, Dempsey, and Kamara... Honestly, this is the strongest Fulham lineup they have available.

Who should Sunderland fans be fearing the most from this Fulham side, if anyone?

Mitchell: If Danny Murphy is on form he can control a game. It goes largely unnoticed, but watch how many passes he makes without giving it away. He’s our playmaker. If Dembele plays then it’s a massive bonus for us as his close control is the best we’ve had in the premiership. Gera is always likely to pop up with a goal.

Russell: There would be two players you should fear the most. First, Clint Dempsey is a player that can create his own scoring opportunities. Don't be shocked to see him take many shots in this game, and several from distance. I would also fear Mark Schwarzer. At Craven Cottage especially he is very tough to beat. He rarely gives up soft goals and you are going to have to earn it to get one past him. He is back to being at the top of his game.

Any of our lot who you think will give you problems?

Mitchell: You look to play a lot on the counter, so we’d need to be wary over Gyan/Welbeck/Bent as I can’t see Hughes or Hangeland winning a foot race with them. If you sit deep in defence you will frustrate us, as without Zamora our only option is Kamara who really needs to get in behind to cause any damage.

Russell: My answer could surprise you but I think Jordan Henderson, Kieran Richardson, Lee Cattermole, and Danny Welbeck could give Fulham problems. A weakness for Fulham right now I think is in central midfield. This is the area for Sunderland to attack. Danny Murphy is a good player but he might be slowing down some. If you control the midfield you can have a great shot at beating Fulham. That is how Man City beat Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Who's the weakest link in the Fulham team?

Mitchell: If Carlos Salcido plays then he is. He’s a great crosser, but for a left back he just cannot defend.

Russell: I would say it would have to be John Pantsil. If there is a player on defense that Sunderland needs to get to it should be Panstil. He just got back in the lineup and has been inconsistent this season.

Whats the deal with the 'Neutral Fans Area' at Craven Cottage? A glorified/extended away end and admission the Cottage will rarely sell out, or a genuine attempt to encourage new fans to come to the Cottage?

Mitchell: It’s a money thing. We missed a generation of fans being in the lower leagues for so long and we’re slowly seeing natural support build through our premiership years, but that will take time. I don’t believe we’ve had a home game not all but sell out this year, so it works in that respect. Hopefully we can do away with it in the next couple of seasons as our support grows. Remember there’s three other teams in our borough, plus Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham etc so attracting fans isn’t easy for a fairly unfashionable club.

Russell: I believe it is an attempt to encourage new fans. Fulham's crowds the last couple of seasons have grown and led to sellouts. The club is very fan friendly, and I do think this is their way to introduce themselves to new fans.

Best pub for Away fans?

Mitchell: The Eight Bells as you come out of Putney tube station. It’s tight but it’s the designated away pub. There’s literally a hundred places to drink and good banter in mixed pubs. The Crabtree on the Hammersmith side backs on to the river and is recommended.

And finally, your prediction for the match, scores, scorers and any other tidbits you think could happen...

Mitchell: Well, it’s going to be a draw isn’t it! It’s what we are good at. I think you’ll score as we haven’t looked the same in defence under Hughes, but I think we can get the better of your centre halves ourselves so am hoping for a 2-1 win. Oh, and if we don’t win, expect a lot of boos for Mark Hughes.

Russell: I am going to predict a 2-1 victory for Fulham. Diomansy Kamara has been coming close lately to scoring. I see him and Clint Dempsey getting goals for Fulham. Even though Fulham are at the wrong end of the table they have shown their ability in many of their games this season. I think they are still figuring out how to win under Hughes, and that is why you are seeing so many draws. Only one team has dominated them and that was Man City. They played very well last week against Arsenal even though they lost. It was very encouraging. This game is very important to Fulham and I am expecting a huge effort to get the victory. I have much respect for Sunderland, however I think you are hitting Fulham at the wrong time.

You can follow Mitchell on Twitter @mitchmoth and Russell @Russ_Goldman

Don't forget to check back later to get Mitchell & Russell's post match reactions, here on The Roker Report.

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