Fulham vs. Liverpool
Venue: Craven Cottage
Kick off: 5:30PM
Champions Liverpool travel to Craven Cottage this afternoon to take on a Fulham side hovering just one place and one point above the relegation zone.
The Cottagers were beaten 2-0 by Manchester City last time out and now face another of the Premier League’s big-hitters, with Liverpool going into the weekend sitting joint-top of the table.
Liverpool could be forgiven for having one eye on Wednesday night’s top-of-the-table crunch match with Tottenham Hotspur ahead of this game, but Jurgen Klopp has naturally insisted that his side’s full focus is on Fulham.
Spurs, who currently sit above Liverpool on goal difference at the summit, are in action in the match immediately before the Reds get underway and so Klopp will know by the time his side kick off whether victory would be enough to take them top.
There is good reason for Klopp to stress the importance of Liverpool not allowing their focus to drift, though; whereas their last two league games at Anfield have seen them record impressive wins over Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, their away form has not been as imperious.
Indeed, across all competitions they have drawn their last three on the road, while you have to go back to September 20 for their last top-flight triumph on their travels.
Since that win over Chelsea, Liverpool have been hammered by Aston Villa and drawn successive matches at Everton, Manchester City and Brighton & Hove Albion, the latter of whom sit just one place above Fulham heading into the weekend.
The Reds have now won three, drawn four and lost four of their last 11 away league games stretching back to last season, having won 17 and lost none of their previous 18, while only four teams in the league this season have picked up fewer points on their travels.
Such a drastic dip in form will no doubt be a concern for Klopp given the impact it could have on his side’s title defence, but Liverpool will regard Sunday’s match as a good opportunity to get back to winning ways.
Klopp has the best win ratio of any manager to take charge of at least 10 away Premier League games in London, coming out on top in 16 of his 26 such matches, while Liverpool as a team have won their last 18 league games against newly-promoted opposition – the second-longest such run in Premier League history.
The Merseysiders have also won their last six Premier League meetings with Fulham, so the stats suggest that it will be another tricky contest for a Fulham side battling against relegation.
Scott Parker’s man have lost three of their last four league games and have lost eight times in total already this term – a tally only rock-bottom Sheffield United have the unwanted distinction of beating.
However, both of their wins have come in their last five games and that includes an impressive 2-1 triumph away to Leicester City – the type of result which will boost their confidence heading into these games.
In truth, Fulham might regard three points from successive games against Leicester, Manchester City and Liverpool as a satisfactory return, which should take a certain degree of pressure off getting a result in this game, particularly with Brighton and Newcastle United in their next two after this.
However, Liverpool’s away record does offer them a glimmer of hope, even if Parker’s side also possess one of the worst home records in the division, with only Sheffield United having picked up fewer points on their own turf.
The main concern for Fulham will be how to keep Liverpool at bay, with the Reds boasting the best attacking record in the division this season compared to Fulham’s second-worst defensive record.
West Bromwich Albion are the only team the Cottagers have prevented from scoring this season, so if Fulham are to pull off a major upset this weekend then it seems a safe bet that they will also need to breach the Liverpool defence more than once.
Fulham possible XI: Areola, Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Cordova-Reid, Anguissa, Reed, Robinson, Loftus-Cheek; Lookman, Cavaleiro.
Liverpool possible XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Jones, Salah, Firmino, Mane.