AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to register their first Premier League double of the season when they meet Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
Dom Solanke’s penalty and goals from Justin Kluivert and Luis Sinisterra earned the Cherries a convincing 3-0 win over the Londoners at Vitality Stadium on Boxing Day.
Five days after losing in Dorset, Marco Silva’s team recorded one of their best results of the season when goals from Bobby Decordova-Reid and Raúl Jiménez saw them triumph 2-1 against Arsenal.
They followed up by progressing to the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup with Decordova-Reid netting the only goal as they edged past Championship strugglers Rotherham United.
Since then, Fulham have exited the Carabao Cup, losing 3-2 on aggregate to Liverpool in the semi-final, and the FA Cup after going down 2-0 to Newcastle in the fourth round at Craven Cottage.
In the Premier League, Silva’s team have taken two points from their past three games, drawing 0-0 at home to Everton and 2-2 away to Burnley having lost 1-0 at Chelsea last month.
Ground: Craven Cottage
Nicknames: The Cottagers, the Whites
Record appearances: Johnny Haynes – 658 games (1952-70)
Record goalscorer: Gordon Davies – 178 goals in 450 games
Manager: Marco Silva (appointed July 2021)
Club captain: Tom Cairney
League position: 13th
Leading goalscorer: Bobby Decordova-Reid, Willian, Raúl Jiménez (all have five)
Last game: Burnley 2 Fulham 2 (Premier League)
afcb.co.uk: How have things gone since the teams met on Boxing Day?
PR: It’s been quite up and down for Fulham and that includes the Boxing Day game on the South Coast.
They followed that up by beating Arsenal on New Year’s Eve, one of their biggest wins under Marco Silva, certainly since they returned to the Premier League.
But in terms of wins, they still haven’t picked one up since their back-to-back 5-0 victories over West Ham and Nottingham Forest.
They had two very good performances in the semi-finals of the League Cup against Liverpool.
There was a bit of disappointment that they didn’t manage to get over the line in the end because they did push Liverpool quite well and had their moments. #
But Liverpool are in terrific form right now and are a tough nut to crack.
There’s been a bit of disappointment recently. They suffered defeat in the fourth round of the FA Cup to Newcastle and drew 0-0 against Everton, a game Fulham felt they should have won.
It was the same again at Burnley where they threw away a 2-0 lead and drew 2-2.
The mood hasn’t been overly positive and they are determined to get back to winning ways.
afcb.co.uk: Was the transfer window a success for Fulham?
PR: It was a very quiet transfer window. There was a hope Fulham might have been more active than they were but, in the end, they kept their counsel and Marco Silva spoke about financial reasons being behind that.
They were almost forced into action late on after Raúl Jiménez suffered a hamstring injury. He looks like he’s going to be sidelined for a good amount of time, certainly more than a month.
Considering the two back-up players – Rodrigo Muniz (pictured above) and Carlos Vinícius – have hardly impressed in the Premier League yet, it forced the issue a bit.
Fulham haven’t replaced the goals of Aleksandar Mitrović, who departed in the summer. They haven’t really signed a replacement for him directly, Jiménez wasn’t signed as a replacement for him.
But with Jiménez now absent, it made the need to sign a striker all the more pressing and they did that by bringing in Armando Broja.
It remains to be seen how well he does. There’s a lot of optimism about his potential and how he might fit into this Fulham team.
But in terms of the window as a whole, it was quiet and they did just about what they needed to do.
afcb.co.uk: How is Marco Silva away from the media glare?
PR: He’s been quite relaxed this season.
During the summer, it was more of a tense time, not just because there was speculation about his own future, but there was speculation around key players like João Palhinha and Mitrović, who, of course, left.
There was a lot of uncertainty but I think that’s calmed down quite a bit now. He signed a new contract in October and he’s cut a more relaxed figure.
In the more recent games, there’s been a little frustration because of the way the team haven’t picked up those wins that they are beginning to need and not doing as well as they did last season.
He’s got quite a calm demeanour at the moment. He can be a bit spiky, but it depends on how games go and if bad decisions go against him.
afcb.co.uk: In the expected absence of Raúl Jiménez, discuss Silva’s attacking options?
PR: Goals have been a big problem for Fulham this season. They’ve not quite been the same attacking force as they were last season.
They had those back-to-back 5-0 wins in December, which seemed like a corner turned. But, at the moment, it feels like they were just rarities, they bucked the trend.
Jimenez found form in that moment and it’s quite clear that he’s become very important to the way Fulham play, bringing those around him into play.
Without him, they want more and that’s why they needed to sign a striker once his injury was confirmed.
No team has played more games than Fulham and drawn a blank in the Premier League this season, which underlines where they are at.
Broja (pictured above) has come in on loan and part of the deal is structured in a way that it’s incentivised that he plays.
I expect he will want to hit the ground running and Fulham need him to hit the ground running.
They haven’t found a way to not just score goals, but also to click and connect in the same way they did last season consistently rather than those one-off games that we’ve seen.
There are goals in the team, but we haven’t seen that consistently.
afcb.co.uk: Who is their rising star?
PR: Fulham have fielded the oldest average aged starting 11 in the Premier League this season, they have one of the more experienced teams and that experience has been the bedrock of their Premier League return. It's helped them stabilise.
But there are some promising players within the group and I think the standout at the moment is left-back Antonee Robinson (pictured above).
He was signed in 2020 from Wigan for quite a low fee, under £2m. He took a little while to adapt but has taken his game to a new level over the past two seasons.
A lot of Fulham’s best play comes down the left wing and it normally sees Robinson combining with Willian, who seems timeless, a complete contrast in terms of ages.
Robinson’s end product is improving a lot. His running and athleticism have always been his strength, but he’s now combining that with being effective in the final third.
Defensively, he’s very solid and some of his best games have been against some of the league’s best attackers. The 4-3 defeat at Anfield comes to mind where he played very well against Mohamed Salah.
Robinson is the one who is really progressing in a way that suggests he has more room to grow and there is a higher level for him to reach.
afcb.co.uk: Are any other key players either injured, suspended or still away on international duty?
PR: Calvin Bassey and Alex Iwobi are Africa Cup of Nations finalists with Nigeria.
Jiménez is out for at least a month with a hamstring injury.
Adama Traore remains sidelined due to a setback with a hamstring injury. He’s been absent for much of the season, which has been a big blow for Fulham because they are quite thin on the ground in terms of numbers the Afcon absences and injuries.
Issa Diop also has a hamstring injury, I’m not sure of his timeline. Unless there are any surprises, that is it.
afcb.co.uk: How do you see this one panning out and what’s your score prediction?
PR: It’s a really tough game.
Bournemouth have shown what they are capable of under Andoni Iraola. We saw how clinical and smart they are, particularly in the final third when Fulham visited the Vitality on Boxing Day.
I expect it to be quite similar. I think the games Fulham and Bournemouth have had over the past couple of seasons have been high intensity and two teams that want to play on the front foot.
I can see this being a score draw and I can see Dom Solanke scoring. I think Fulham will hope Broja can do the same, so I’ll say 1-1.
You can follow Peter on X (formerly Twitter) – @peterrutzler
Officials: Darren England (referee), Simon Bennett (assistant), Daniel Robathan (assistant), Stephen Martin (fourth official), Michael Salisbury (VAR).