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Preview: Any Comforts To Be Found At The Cottage?

Sunderland head to the capital this weekend to try and find an end to their recent struggles. Will they find the Cottage a comforting one?

Christopher Lee

Sunderland Team News

Lee Cattermole and Steven Fletcher are doubtful ahead of the trip to Craven Cottage. Cattermole missed the game against Everton due to a knee injury whilst Sunderland's top scorer was taken off after a knock on his calf during the game.

Elsewhere, Craig Gardner picked up his fifth booking of the season at Goodison Park and with Phil Bardsley another injury concern, Martin O'Neill has a decision to make at right-back. Titus Bramble could be deployed at centre-half, enabling either Carlos Cuellar or John O'Shea to start at full-back. Sebastian Larsson could also be considered having been moved there at stages during games.

Keiren Westwood had to withdraw from the Ireland squad through injury too, meaning there could be a call up for hotly-tipped youngster Jordan Pickford to the bench.

Fulham Team News

Fulham will be without Chris Baird after he suffered the same fate as Gardner and is suspended for the fixture. Former Sunderland man Kieran Richardson limped off in the draw against Arsenal and remains a doubt whilst there are concerns over Mahamadou Diarra's fitness. Should the Mali international miss out then Euro 2004 winner Giorgos Karagounis could make his first start for his new club.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland: Mignolet; Larsson, O'Shea, Cuellar, Rose; Johnson, Cattermole, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher

Fulham: Schwarzer; Reither, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Dejagah, Karagounis, Sidwell, Kacaniklic; Ruiz; Berbatov

Key Matchup: Stephane Sessegnon Vs Steve Sidwell

The Benin international is slowly starting to rekindle his form from last season, and will need to be at his creative best if Sunderland are to break down a team that score three goals for every one they concede at home. The former Chelsea man contributes towards an industrious Fulham central midfield that provides a base for their attacking contingent to build on, but he will need to be mindful of Sessegnon's tendency to drop off into space and receive possession.

Recent Form: DDWDL

Draw: Arsenal 3-3 Fulham (Giroud 11, 69, Podolski 23; Berbatov 29, (pen) 67, Kacaniklic 40)

Draw: Fulham 2-2 Everton (Howard og 7, Sidwell 90; Fellaini 55, 72)

Draw: Reading 3-3 Fulham (Leigertwood 26, McCleary 85, Robson-Kanu 90; Ruiz 61, Baird 77, Berbatov 88)

Win: Fulham 1-0 Aston Villa (Baird 84)

Draw: Southampton 2-2 Fulham (Fonte 4, 90; Hooiveld og 70, Richardson 88)

Last Time Around: Fulham 2-1 Sunderland, 6/5/2012

In the penultimate game of last season, Moussa Dembele's goal before half time proved to be decisive and extend Sunderland's winless run.

Clint Dempsey's free kick opened the scoring but the visitors equalised through Phil Bardsley's powerful effort from the edge of the area but Dembele restored Fulham's lead just one minute later and clinch all three points for the Cottagers.

The Ref: Lee Probert

The Gloucestershire official has already been in charge of the Lads this season - taking the whistle in the 3-0 defeat away to Manchester City.

He refereed Sunderland on three occasions last season, with none ending in wins, the most high-profile game being the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Everton. Here's hoping for a swift change in fortunes.

What The Managers Said

Martin O'Neill:

They're a good side and have been for some time now.

They have a settled team.

A settled nucleus of the team so the loss of Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele is something they've been able to absorb and then the addition of Dimitar Berbatov obviously enhances things.

Berbatov has been a superb player who looks reinvigorated by the move away from Old Trafford.

As a side, they're in very fine form but I know that it is time to convert defeats into draws and draws into victories, and the sooner the better.

Martin Jol:

Most of the players are fine but Diarra is injured and I don't think he will make it. He's a doubt, a big doubt.

Kieran Richardson's got a hamstring problem and he will be out for another 10 days and then he will start training again. Simon Davies, of course, after his operation is still out for months and Chris Baird is suspended.

Sunderland have conceded half the goals we've conceded.

They've had six draws; four draws away from home in six games so it's not an easy match.

They conceded less goals than almost any other team in the league probably so they are well organised and they've got players like [James] McClean, [Steven] Fletcher, [Stephane] Sessegnon - who had a great season last year - and [Adam] Johnson who is one of the bigger talents in England. So up front they have got quality. It won't be a walkover."

Roker Report Predicts

As Fulham's recent form suggests, they are a team capable of conceding goals as well as scoring them, which should give Martin O'Neill's men hope of a first away win in the league this season.

Should Fletcher and Cattermole be passed fit then it enhances those chances considerably, and the performance last time out against Everton was much improved. So we'll plump for a 2-1, this time holding on to a lead away from home.

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