AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to follow up their emphatic win at Brighton when they host Premier League rivals Fulham at Vitality Stadium on Saturday.
AFC Bournemouth v Fulham
Saturday 20 April
Premier League, 3pm
Most Fulham supporters probably cannot wait to see the back of the 2018/19 season after they were relegated with five games to go.
But under the caretaker-management of former player Scott Parker (above), the Cottagers have offered hope for the future and given fans renewed encouragement.
Having been pipped by Cardiff for the second automatic promotion place, Tom Cairney’s goal saw Fulham triumph 1-0 against Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final in May.
But their first Wembley appearance for 43 years since losing the 1975 FA Cup final against West Ham proved something of a poison chalice for manager Slavisa Jokanovic.
With the Cottagers propping up the Premier League having taken just five points from their first 12 games, Jokanovic was dismissed in early November.
He was replaced with Claudio Ranieri, who had famously guided Leicester to the title in 2016, the 67-year-old having spent the previous campaign with French club Nantes.
Announcing the Italian’s appointment, Fulham chairman Shahid Khan described Ranieri as “risk-free and ready-made for the Premier League, and particularly so for what we need at this moment”.
Ranieri, who lists Chelsea, Juventus and Inter Milan among his former clubs, immediately stopped the rot when he presided over a 3-2 home win against Southampton in his first game.
He labelled Aleksandar Mitrovic “one of the best goalscorers in Europe” after the striker’s double had heaped more pressure on beleaguered Saints boss Mark Hughes.
However, the return fixture at St Mary’s in February – which the Cottagers lost 2-0 – proved to be the final straw for the Fulham board as Ranieri was sacked.
His 16-match reign in the Premier League ended with the Londoners 10 points adrift of safety – and also included an ignominious FA Cup defeat at the hands of League Two Oldham Athletic.
First-team coach Parker was placed in temporary charge and has been planning for the future ever since, even though his own position remains uncertain.
The former England international would have been hugely encouraged by their dominant display in their 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday, Parker’s first victory following five successive defeats.
Despite having the worst defensive record in the division, the Cottagers comfortably held Everton to keep just a third clean sheet of the season.
LAST TIME OUT
Fulham 2-0 Everton
Scott Parker celebrated his first win since taking the manager’s reins on a caretaker basis as the Cottagers halted a run of nine successive Premier League defeats.
Tom Cairney and Ryan Babel (above) were on target in the second half as Fulham kept just their third clean sheet of the season and deservedly toppled the in-form Toffees.
Parker succeeded Claudio Ranieri at the end of February and had presided over consecutive losses against Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City and Watford.
Midfielder Cairney is keen to see Parker given the job permanently and said: “Ever since Scott Parker was put in charge, it has been a step in the right direction. It has been hard to get a win but the performances have improved.
“You can see the way the players play for him, the way they respond. If there has been that improvement in four or five weeks, it’s a given he will get the job.”
Parker said: “We were fantastic from start to finish. We showed a real quality in the way we played and showed grit. We had worked hard over the past 10 days. To a man, we were fantastic.”
2018-19 TOP SCORER
Aleksandar Mitrovic – 10 goals in all competitions
Parker retired from playing in June 2017 after spending the final four years of his career with Fulham and took up a coaching role with Tottenham under-18s.
He left Spurs to rejoin Fulham as first-team coach under Slavisa Jokanovic in the summer of 2018 and played his part in their promotion to the Premier League.
Parker was appointed caretaker-manager following Claudio Ranieri’s departure in February and his first game was a 2-1 defeat by Chelsea at Craven Cottage.
His playing career spanned 20 years between 1997 and 2017, with Parker progressing through the youth ranks at Charlton Athletic where he made 128 league appearances.
Parker signed for Chelsea for a reported fee of £10million in January 2004 but failed to establish himself as a first-team regular, his time at Stamford Bridge plagued by injury.
He moved to Newcastle in July 2005 and eventually succeeded Alan Shearer as captain at St James’s Park, his club form earning him an England recall.
Parker returned to his London roots when he joined West Ham in 2007 and was named Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and England Player of the Year in 2011.
He signed for Tottenham in August 2011 and was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year in his first season at White Hart Lane before joining Fulham in 2013.
Parker has represented England at every level from under-16 to senior and won his first four caps while playing for four different clubs.
- The Cherries have lost just one of their past 11 league meetings with the Cottagers – in January 1994.
- Christchurch-born Percy Cherrett scored the Cherries’ first goal against the Cottagers in a 1-0 win in Division Three (South) in September 1928.
- The Cherries have done the double over the Cottagers on three occasions, including when they won the third tier in 1986/87 with Mark O’Connor, Mark Newson and John Williams scoring in a 3-2 win at Dean Court and Trevor Aylott (2) and Tony Sealy on target in a 3-1 victory at Craven Cottage.
- Fulham’s 2-0 victory over Everton six days ago saw them record their first Premier League win in 10 games, having lost the previous nine.
- Since his debut in January, Ryan Babel has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other Fulham player (four goals, three assists).
- Fulham’s 2-0 victory at Craven Cottage in April 1992 was one of Harry Redknapp’s final games in charge of the Cherries.
- In February 1998, Steve Robinson netted for the Cherries in a 1-0 win at Fulham in a game which saw Eddie Howe come off the bench in the 88th minute and play up front for the first and only time in his career.
- Cherries goalkeeper Artur Boruc has kept four clean sheets in 10 games in the Premier League this season, while Fulham’s Sergio Rico has kept two in 25.
- Ryan Fraser (12) tops the Premier League assists table alongside Christian Eriksen and Eden Hazard, while Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon has six.
- In their recent 2-0 win against Everton, Tom Cairney (above) scored his first Premier League goal since netting against the Toffees for Hull City in March 2010 – 3,324 days ago.
- Fulham’s only double over the Cherries came in Division Three (South) in 1931/32 when the Cottagers won both fixtures 3-0.
- All five of Fulham’s Premier League victories this season have come at Craven Cottage.