Fulham are back in the Premier League and this time around they want to get over their Yo-Yo tag, and what better way to prove their intent then hosting Liverpool at Craven Cottage on a warm Saturday, in their first game of the new season.
The newly promoted Cottagers have been given all the support they need to put up a good fight for the survival battle. Their season opener against one of the hottest picks to lift the silverware at the end of the season, the Reds, might hinder Marco Silva and his men’s hopes of gaining the momentum off the bat!
Meanwhile, Klopp’s men will take great heart from the fact that they were able to beat their rivals, and the defending champions, Manchester City to lift the Community Shield. The 3-1 score line does show the dominance of this red-sided Merseyside in whole truth, apart from some momentary lapse in the defence that could have cost the shield.
It looks like a well set-up opener for both of these sides to get going. While Liverpool will be going into this game as the “easy winners”, Fulham have a huge chance of giving their visitors a heartbreak as the “underdogs”.
When & Where?
Venue: Craven Cottage.
Date: Saturday, 6th August 2022.
Time: 12:30 BST.
Referee: Andy Madley.
Assistant Referees: Dan Cook and Derek Eaton.
Fourth Official: Tony Harrington.
VAR Official: Stuart Attwell.
Marco Silva lacks the luxury of having a huge squad at his expense. Adding to that, the injuries of Harry Wilson (knee), Nathaniel Chalobah (knock), and Joe Bryan (hand) might seem to ruin their tendency to make a mark for the opening clash this Saturday.
Even with Harry Wilson unavailable, there seems to be a good balance in this Fulham side with the additions of midfielders, Joao Palhinha from Sporting Club, and Andreas Pereira from Manchester United, both of whom are in line to make their debuts. Mitrovic looks poised to start as the sole striker, while it remains to be seen if the newly acquired goalkeeper from Arsenal- Bernd Leno is clear to take the no.1 role at the back.
On the other hand, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have their own set of injury concerns within the squad. Diogo Jota (Thigh), Curtis Jones (Muscle), Konate (Knock), and Tsimikas (knock), all have been recovering with require further assessments required and therefore won’t be able to travel with the squad this Saturday. Although the Greek International looks to make it to the bench, the only possible confirmation could be given by Klopp himself in the pre-match press conference. Meanwhile, Oxlade-Chamberlain must be hating on the lady luck as he still remains out due to a hamstring injury.
After Adrian’s heroics in the Community Shield, his spot would still be given to Alisson between the sticks as the Brazilian is cleared to play this Saturday after missing the last game due to an Abdominal problem. For the place upfront, Firmino and Nunez both might get a good amount of minutes with the Premier League teams now allowed to make five substitutions from the start of the 2022/23 campaign.
After lifting the Championship trophy, Fulham’s remarkable entry into the 2022/23 Premier League campaign could turn into a horror show. Their attempt to not get relegated the third season in a row is already looking under jeopardy, with serious issues related to the depth within the squad arising!
“No one can prepare for one season with just two central defenders. We have two central defenders at this level,” Marco Silva said as quoted by The Sun. Losing a young player like Fabio Carvalho and the inability to sign a player like Neco Williams on a permanent deal, who contributed well enough to the side during his loan spell, might cost the Cottagers colossally.
Funnily, both of these major summer transfer blunders were made at the expense of their Saturday’s opponents in Liverpool. The Reds signed the Portuguese starlet, Carvalho, from the Cottagers, and also sold Neco Williams to Nottingham Forest- slapping a double blow over the course of a single window to this newly promoted side. But this is how things stand so far for Silva and his “courageous men”. If more signings are made before the deadline then well and good, but if not, then the Portuguese Gaffer will have to find a way to not let Fulham slip into the relegation zone.
As for Klopp and his men, a trip to Craven Cottage in the opening matchday of the season seems to be a cakewalk as they prepare to battle it out for their 20th English top-flight title- if they are to win it this season!
The Reds fell short of a point to capture the Premier League along with a 1-0 loss in the UCL Final against Real Madrid to complete an unprecedented quadruple. Football is not a game revolving around “What ifs, buts and maybes”, and these 2 heartbreaks should be seen as a confidence booster within the squad. There is no shortage of talent in this Liverpool side, and with the likes of Carvalho, Nunez and Ramsay coming into the squad, you can only see them improving from their past seasons.
A glimpse of this talent was also showcased in the Community Shield game, where they faced Manchester City and beat them 3-1. The major plus point from the game to take away was how the whole squad responded and stood up when it mattered the most, given their poor run of performances in the pre-season prior to the showdown. Another talking point was Nunez’s first senior goal for his new club; the goal coming in a final against such an opponent, just increased the whole value of it and this reflected in the Uruguayan’s celebration.
Overall, the season opener could give us a good insight to how these new signings would respond when sent to the pitch at such a high stage. As for Fulham, it could be a good learning experience or they can even prove to be a surprise package!
Players to look out for:
Aleksandr Mitrovic (Fulham)
Mitrovic is certainly a striker who would want to break the Premier League curse, this time around. Since his move to Fulham, the Serbian monster has been spitting hell-fire on the Championship sides- scoring 83 goals and providing 11 assists in just 103 Championship games that he has played for the Cottagers. But unfortunately enough, the Talisman has not been able to replicate the same form whenever Fulham got promoted to the top-flight in the past six years- that corresponds to those two times prior this season. Mitrovic has a mere 14-goal tally over the course of two Premier League seasons with Fulham- 2018/19 season (11 goals) & 2020/21 season (3 goals).
With a new coach in Marco Silva, at the helm of the things, Mitrovic might feel as if this is the season where he breaks the shackles altogether. But then again, the Cottagers are in a zone where they need their Talismanic Serbian to strike from the get-go, and looking at his current standards it will be foolish for any defender to not mark him.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Mo Salah has one really interesting stat going into Saturday’s opener, apart from his numerous other marvelous stats. The Egyptian King has scored at least a goal in all the season-opener fixtures, since he arrived at Liverpool back in 2018. He will be hungry to continue this streak at Craven Cottage as well.
Meanwhile, none of the Premier League sides are a stranger to Salah’s prowess and exploits -be it his flashy dribbles or those beautiful out-footed passes, the English top-flight have seen it all! Even in one of his “not-so great seasons” Salah finished as the joint top-scorer in the league, alongside Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min with 24 goals to their name. And this season, the Egyptian Winger has again started from where he left last season after his assist and goal against City in the Community Shield win. Jurgen Klopp will only be hoping that Salah remains consistent with his performances even more-so, as they look to bring the title back to Anfield.
Fulham predicted XI vs Liverpool: Rodak; Mbabu, Tosin, Ream, Robinson; Reed, Palhinha; Decordova-Reid, Pereira, Kebano; Mitrovic.
Liverpool predicted XI vs Fulham: Alisson; Trent, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Diaz.