The 2022/23 season of the Premier League witnesses the first set of midweek fixtures as Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage. Ahead of the season, Aston Villa were expected to solidify their mid-table position and create an identity under Steven Gerrard. Fulham, meanwhile, were coined as the relegation favorites despite finishing at the top of the championship.
However, the tides have turned the other way around. The Cottagers are certainly enjoying a good start to the season with 12 points to their name, while Aston Villa are struggling to get results and languishing down at 16th position with just two wins so far. Both the terms have had a stop-start campaign and this tie could prove crucial as the season carries on.
When & Where?
Venue: Craven Cottage, London.
Date: Thursday, 20th October 2022.
Time: 7:30 PM BST.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett.
Fourth Official: Craig Pawson.
VAR Official: Paul Tierney.
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s injury during the international break was more serious than expected, but the striker started against AFC Bournemouth. Marco Silva will want Mitrovic to start again but has a decision to make since the fixtures are piling up. Manor Solomon is still out with a knee injury he sustained in the opening week, while Layvin Kurzawa has suffered a setback.
Right back, Kenny Tete is also sidelined, so Bobby Decordova Reid is once again set to get the nod at right back. Willian could come in for Dan James and Tosin Adarabioyo, who was dropped against Bournemouth, will hope to get a start against Aston Villa.
As for Aston Villa, summer signings Diego Carlos and Boubacar Kamara are out with long-term injuries. However, Lucas Digne is set to return from a calf strain and his addition will be welcomed. Danny Ings could start the game, and this could mean that Ollie Watkins might move to the left-hand side with Emiliano Buendia on the right.
Fulham have played some exciting brand of football with Mitrovic at the heart of it. So it is no wonder that they missed their number 9 in their defeat against West Ham. With Palhinha as a defensive midfielder, Harrison Reed has the license to push forward and is getting into good goal-scoring positions.
Silva’s 4-2-3-1 setup has relied on wide combinations with the fullback, central midfielder, and winger combining to create overloads. While they prefer to play out from the back, the defenders can also go direct with Mitrovic upfront. They have a dynamic approach that has caused trouble for the opposition. Against Aston Villa’s compact setup, they will once again look to target the wide channels and deliver crosses for Mitrovic.
Aston Villa, meanwhile, are winless way from home and their form has been woeful. Having said that, they are slowly starting to improve in both attacking and defensive phase. The 2-0 defeat against Chelsea was rather undeserved as they dominated the game for large periods. Philippe Coutinho’s form, though, has worried Gerrard as he is struggling to adapt to the manager’s needs.
Despite having a talented squad, the Villans aren’t on the same wavelength, with wingers and midfielders sometimes occupying the same zones and restricting the options. Their decision-making and the final ball have also been a problem. However, Fulham themselves have been poor defensively and Villa will look to secure their first away win after showing promising signs against Chelsea last game.
Aleksander Mitrovic – Fulham
The Serbian was clearly missed in the game Fulham lost and his presence up top makes an enormous difference in the way Silva’s side operates. Carlos Vinicius is a decent option to replace him, but Mitrovic’s ability on the ball makes Fulham tick.
He returned to the scoresheet against Bournemouth on Saturday and already has 7 goals to his name. He will look to add to his tally versus Aston Villa as Steven Gerrard’s side look vulnerable defensively.
Ollie Watkins – Aston Villa
This game is certainly a battle between two strikers who are decisive, both physically and technically. Watkins has provided some spark in a rather poor season, but he has struggled to convert his chances. Nevertheless, he is getting into excellent positions to score and a goal should arrive sooner than later.
Gerrard will hope his number 11 can rediscover his goal-scoring form against Fulham. He remains a key part of his plans as he drags players with his runs, which in turn creates space for the wingers and attacking midfielders.
Fulham predicted lineup vs Aston Villa: Leno; Decordova-Reid, Diop, Ream, Robinson; Palhinha, Reed; James, Pereira, Kebano; Mitrovic.
Aston Villa predicted lineup vs Fulham: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Young; McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey; Buendia, Ings, Watkins.