Spyin' Kop - Fulham v Liverpool 09/05/2011
Posted by Flon on May 9, 2011, 12:14:40 AM
Monday 9th May, Craven Cottage
Liverpool travel to Craven Cottage knowing that they will need three points to keep their hopes of European football next season alive. Fulham's recent form has picked up, helping them to get away from the relegation mix and comfortably into mid-table. However, it is their home form in particular which has got them shooting up the table: 5 wins and 1 draw in the last 6 suggest this will be a stern test for Liverpool.
Thanks this week to Rob and Stew for answering these questions.How has the season been shaping up so far compared to your expectations at the start of the season?Rob: Despite some disappointing performances that left Fulham in the bottom three, the worst being a 3-1 home defeat to West Ham, our season has picked up from there. Weíre sitting in the top half of the table and clear of relegation whilst playing some good attacking football. I think most Fulham fans, myself included, would have been satisfied with a top ten league finish. Hughes also came with a reputation that his teams are slightly dirty however with Fulham near the top of the fair play league this doesnít seem to the be the case.Stew: Pretty well I think, safe from relegation after the win at Sunderland and in the top half too. I think we probably should be disappointed to have been knocked out of the cup by Bolton at the Cottage because they went on to play 2 teams we could beat all day long and would have taken us to the final. Hopefully we can get a European place through the fair play league, just have to wait and see. But all in all we have improved as a team over the season and next year looks promising.Who have been your outstanding performers this season? And your worst?Rob: It would be impossible to answer this without mentioning Clint Dempsey. He stepped up when we were without any recognised strikers and his two goals against Bolton made him Fulhamís all time leading goal scorer in the premier league with the grand total of 33 but it just seems with Clint that he isnít interested in something unless he has played a part in it.. However for me the player of the season is Chris Baird. He had a tough time when he first came to Fulham and lost his place in the team when Roy Hodgson first took over but soon became an integral part of his plans playing 32 games last season and has continued to impress this season playing in a number of positions across the back and performing solidly in all positions. Honorary mention to Dembele who has adapted well to the English game but he just needs to add goals to his game. On the other hand, the Ďprizeí of worst performer of the season would have to go, and it pains me to say it, John Pantsil. He always seems rocky when under pressure and scored a couple of own goals which left him out of the team and made way for Chris Baird. Its perhaps because of Bairds assured and calm performances that made Pantsil look rocky, but I feel the team is better with Baird in it that with Pantsil in it. Johns contract is up at the end of the season and it seems Sparky will let him leave which is a shame because he is a good back up player and has a great attitude. Stew: Obviously Clint Dempsey is up there as he overtook McBride and Steed as our most prolific Premiership goalscorer so I guess many people would say him. But I think that Baird has come a long way since Sanchez signed him and looks a different player. I think he has all the credentials to take over as captain once Murphy retires. He has vastly improved over 2 and a half years and is adept in left back and central midfield as well as his natural right back. Our worst player is a difficult one, none of the players have been particularly poor, but I would probably single out Gera as having a disappointing season, possibly because Hughes as other preferences over him but he doesnít look the same player when he comes on (usually as a late sub) as he was last year in our Europa League run.There's a school of thought amongst opposition fans that Liverpool didn't really give Roy a chance; can you offer any defence, and would you prefer him to Mark Hughes now?Rob: irstly, I wouldnít welcome Roy back now, perhaps at Christmas when things werenít going well then yes but sparky has us playing some attractive attacking football and hasnít dismantled the solid defence we had under Roy. Roy seems to be doing a similar job he did at Fulham with West Brom so credit to him. Secondly, I do feel a slight affection towards Roy and the notion that Liverpool were too big for him seems misplaced as he did manage Inter Milan so a big club was nothing new to him, but I do think that the instability behind the scenes couldnít have helped him settle but still I think this was a period in which Liverpool didnít need a cautions manager and now you have the man you wanted from the start and seem to be playing better for it.Stew: To be honest I think this subject is a bit of a double edged sword. Hodgson did really well at Fulham, but he didnít manage to bring that success with him when he moved to the Merseyside. I donít doubt that he probably could have done it had he been given more time, but at the same time Liverpool arenít a team that wants to be taking steps back, so they had to sack him. I am very grateful for what Hodgson did for the club, but I think that he has laid foundation for Hughes to build on, and has built on. I hope Hughes stays for a long time, fingers crossed Houllier gets better soon!Are there any young up and coming players at Fulham that we might not know about?Rob: The youth set up at Fulham hasnít produced anyone as of yet capable of challenging for the first team. Matthew Briggs had a run in the team earlier on in the season and will perhaps challenge for the left back position one day but still a diamond in the rough. However, the under 18ís seem to performing well and have just won their league, so perhaps the future is bright and with money tighter, although not tight enough that we cant build a MJ statue, perhaps Hughesís hand will be forced into bringing some of the youth players into the first team.Stew: Matthew Briggs is a top player and a massive potential, especially with our lack of left back. But you have probably heard of him or even seen him play. Danny Hoesen was on the bench against Sunderland but Iím not really familiar with him either. We donít usually play young players, but I think Hughes might try out some next season.Do you have any particular memories of any previous meetings between our clubs, good or bad?Rob: May 2007 Ė Clint Dempsey scoring the only goal and keeping Fulham in the premier league, however this result was also bittersweet as it convinced Al-fayed to hire Lawrie Sanchez as manager and let him run wild with £25million and still only record 2 wins in 18 games!Stew: Probably 2005 when we beat you 2-0 on the day we unveiled the Johnny Haynes statue (the better of the two statues at our club!) I loved watching Claus Jensen, his passing and footwork was extraordinary. And probably 2007 when Dempsey scored his first goal for us, effectively keeping us up in a 1-0 win.Where's the best place for away fans to grab a drink near the ground?Rob: The Eight Bells is the usual away pub for travelling fans. But theres also a couple of Ďspoons pubs dotted around, stay clear of the Golden Lion as its Fulham only.Stew: Probably the Duke of Cornwall just off the broadway, I donít think it has any affiliation with Fulham nor any other club but isnít the greatest. The Old Suffolk Punch on Fulham palace road usually has lots of Fulham fans in there but is accommodating to the away fans. Donít go to the Golden Lion as that is strictly Fulham ticket holders. or there are two/three wetherspoons in Hammersmith and Putney for the unemployed scouser.What kind of line-up do you think Mark Hughes will employ on Monday?Rob: Iíd like to say that we would play with less passion and desire because weíre safe but I cant see Hughes allowing his players to take it easy and he has targeted 9 points from 9. Lately he seems to be benching Zamora and Johnson perhaps to use when the opposition tire or perhaps because of fitness and Hangeland missed the last game so Iíd imagine the team to be:
Schwarzer, Baird, Senderos, Hughes, Salcido, Davies, Murphy, Sidwell, Kakuta, Dempsey, Dembele
Subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Etuhu, Gera, Gudjohnsen, Zamora, JohnsonStew: Hopefully Dempsey will be back on the left and Eidur Gudjohnsen next to Dembele up front. Zamora on the bench as I think we should show Gudjohnsen that we need him next season as he has been impressive since he joined on loan, the same goes to Kakuta who should be brought on at half time if we are a goal down, but he is unlikely to sign a contract. Weíre safe, and will probably play conservatively as to not get too many bookings to keep out European hopes alive so I reckon:
Schwarzer, Baird, Hangeland, Hughes, Salcido, Davies, Murphy, Sidwell, Dempsey, Gudjohnsen, Dembele
Subs: Stockdale, Pantsil, Senderos, Etuhu, Greening, Kakuta, JohnsonWhich Liverpool player will you fear the most?Rob: Suarez or Kuyt.Stew: SuarezWhere do you think Fulham and Liverpool will finish in the league?Rob: Liverpool will hopefully finish in the top 5. Iíd love it if you finished in the top 4 against Manchester City as Iíve gone off of Man city and Manchini since the handshake debacle with Mark Hughes at eastlands (word of advice for Kenny, shake Marks hand for god sake), and Fulham should finish in the top 10 and I'd predict 9th with qualification for the Europa League coming from the fair play league!Stew: Liverpool 5th. I cant see Tottenham beating either you or Man City. Fulham above 10th hopefully, considering Hughes has been saying for the past month we're a top ten club.Care to predict the score?Rob: We have a pretty strong record at Crave Cottage and we donít concede many goals, Iíll go for a conservative 1-1 with Liverpool leading at half time. But either way, I feel this game will be a thrillerÖ.. and I hope the team in black and white is victorious at the end and it makes the Liverpool fans want to scream. I hope thatís enough Jacko references for everyone.Stew: 1-0 Fulham.
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