BOTH Stoke City and Fulham have excelled on home turf in the Premier League this season… which means the Cottagers will go into Saturday’s game as favourites.
Although Martin Jol’s team haven’t been quite as steady on their own patch in 2012/13, their record of only one loss to the Potters in the last nine games at Craven Cottage means City will be hard-pressed to record a second Premier League away win of the season.
Confidence will be improved, however, after a win against Reading that elevated the Club to 33 points and the potential addition to the first-team squad of Marc Wilson and Brek Shea.
A late Ryan Shawcross goal wasn’t enough to force an equaliser for City in this fixture last season after a Thomas Sorensen own-goal and Pavel Pogrebnyak strike meant they went down 2-1.
Tony Pulis has confirmed that long-term injury victim Wilson and deadline day signing Shea will both feature against Fulham at Craven Cottage this weekend.
Wilson hasn’t featured for the first-team since breaking his leg last October, whilst American international Shea hasn’t played competitively for a similar amount of time having undergone surgery for a problematic foot injury, prior to his move from FC Dallas.
However, the pair are firmly on the comeback trail according to the City boss, and he says a late decision will be made on whether to include them in his starting eleven as the Potters bid to complete a league double over the Cottagers.
One player who is all but certain to miss the trip to London is former England hit-man Michael Owen.
The 33-year-old twinged his thigh in training on Tuesday while fellow front-man Cameron Jerome should be ok to feature at the weekend, despite limping out of Monday’s behind-closed-doors friendly against Scunthorpe with a knock to the knee.
FULHAM v STOKE CITY (12:45)
Arsenal v Aston Villa
Norwich City v Everton
Queens Park Rangers v Manchester United
Reading v Wigan Athletic
West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland
Manchester City v Chelsea (Sunday, 13:30)
Newcastle United v Southampton (Sunday, 13:30)
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur (Monday, 20:00)
All games kick-off at 15:00 on Saturday unless otherwise stated.
HEAD TO HEAD
League: 26 Stoke City wins; 28 Fulham wins; 15 draws
FA Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 1 Fulham win; 0 draws
League Cup: 3 Stoke City wins; 1 Fulham win; 0 draws
TOTAL: 28 Stoke City wins; 30 Fulham wins; 15 draws
LAST FIVE ENCOUNTERS
Stoke City 1-0 Fulham (Premier League) – 24/11/2012
Fulham 2-1 Stoke City (Premier League) – 11/02/2012
Stoke City 2-0 Fulham (Premier League) – 15/10/2011
Fulham 2-0 Stoke City (Premier League) – 22/01/2011
Stoke City 0-2 Fulham (Premier League) – 28/12/2010
Fulham win 11/10; Stoke City win 13/5; draw 23/10
REFEREE – LEE PROBERT
Surprisingly, this weekend’s match will be Lee Probert’s first Stoke City game of the season.
He has officiated 26 times this season, but his last Potters match came in the Carling Cup defeat to Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium in October 2011.
His most recent assignment was Luton Town’s 3-0 FA Cup Fifth Round loss against Millwall last weekend.
He has given out 74 yellow cards and two reds this season.
Full name: Fulham Football Club
Stadium: Craven Cottage
Owner: Mohamed Al-Fayed
Chairman: Mohamed Al-Fayed
Manager: Martin Jol
2011/12: Premier League (9th), FA Cup (Fourth Round), League Cup (Third Round).
Record transfer fee paid: £11.5m for Steve Marlet to Lyon, (August 2001).
Record transfer fee received: £15m for Moussa Dembele from Tottenham Hotspur (August 2012).
INTRODUCING THE GAFFER
Martin Jol was handed the opportunity to take care of “unfinished business” when Fulham appointed him as successor to Mark Hughes last year.
The Dutchman jumped at the chance to return to the English game where his three years in charge of Tottenham Hotspur were characterised by good football and significant strides forward even though he was eventually replaced by Juande Ramos.
Jol enjoyed successful spells at Bundesliga club Hamburg and Dutch giants Ajax following his departure from White Hart Lane and that put him on Fulham’s radar when they were initially seeking a replacement for Roy Hodgson in the summer of 2010.
Ajax, who had won the Dutch Cup and finished a point behind FC Twente in the League as Luis Suarez scored 45 goals for them in that season, put the block on their coach returning to England when approached by the Cottagers at that particular point.
But after resigning from his post six months later, the former Spurs boss then became the favourite to take over from the outgoing Hughes in June 2011.
He had a successful first season at the club, leading them to ninth place in the Premier League and collecting 52 points, which was one off the Cottagers record tally in the top-flight.
Despite a proven track record in management, most notably with successful spells at Tottenham, Hamburg and Ajax, Jol would no doubt have liked to have won more honours, with just two Dutch Cup triumphs -Roda JC in 1996 and Ajax in 2009 -to his name.
Jol is perhaps best described as the nearly man of English football. In his first season as Spurs manager, a UEFA Cup spot eluded them by two points after a final day draw against Blackburn. Then, it was a similar story as Spurs held a Champions League spot until the final day, eventually finishing fifth, where they also finished in the following season.