A third successive Monday evening PPV fixture for the Baggies sees them travel to Craven Cottage to take on bottom side Fulham. It will be the first time this campaign that Albion take on a fellow promoted side, and both teams will feel that this is a real opportunity to get their first Premier League victory of the season.
With rumours of another national lockdown about to be imposed, it could be Albion’s last game for a while if the government decides to bring a halt to professional sport once again.
Scott Parker has endured a tough return to the Premier League with the Cottagers’ two opening home games resulting in 3-0 defeats to Arsenal and Aston Villa sandwiching a 4-3 defeat to fellow promoted side, Leeds United, at Elland Road. They then went to Molineux and were edged out 1-0 in a fairly drab game before earning their only point of the season so far away to Sheffield United – that is the Blades’ only point of the season as well. Last time out, they were beaten 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace although it was not as close as the scoreline suggests with Tom Cairney’s consolation goal, their only one at home so far this campaign, coming deep into stoppage time.
With fourteen goals conceded so far this season, no one has conceded more than Fulham, although they are level with Albion and, remarkably enough, second-placed Liverpool. Equally disturbing for Parker will be the goals for column with just five scored, three of which came in one game against Leeds. They look like the prime opponents to register a first victory against, but I’m sure that Fulham will consider the Baggies equally attractive opponents.
However, Slaven Bilić’s team have been making incremental improvements in each game, excepting the poor performance at Southampton, culminating in the excellent second half performance at Brighton that could have easily produced that elusive first victory. If the players can pick up where they left off, there is every reason to hope that this match could bring three points.
Having lost a player he expected to keep last weekend, Bilić now has a player available that he had expected to lose. The FA have not approved Kamil Grosicki’s loan move to Nottingham Forest and the Pole returned to training at the Hawthorns this week. I’d be surprised if he went straight into the squad for Monday’s match, but he could be a useful alternative option as the season progresses.
I don’t expect to see any changes to the starting line up from the Brighton match, although there is a chance that someone has particularly impressed Bilić in training. Having said that, Albion looked much improved at the Amex with Pereira playing more centrally, and I wonder if the Croat might tweak things to allow that to happen from the start. Last week, that was principally done by replacing Livermore with Robinson and it would be a big call for Bilić to start without his skipper, but I would expect to see a similar change should Albion need a goal in the second half.
Predicting the Fulham line up is somewhat tricky given the number of changes that Parker has made this season in search of a winning formula. He has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation but tried 3-4-3 against Villa and it was more of a 4-3-3 last time out against Palace. Only Mitrović and Anguissa have featured in every game although goalkeeper, Areola, usual skipper, Cairney, Cavaleiro and Ream have started five of the six league games this season.
Former Baggie, Tosin Adarabioyo, has played their last two games while new loan signing, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, is also likely to be a fixture in the starting line up going forward. Another loan signing, Ademola Lookman, has also started the last two games, scoring against Sheffield United – he has a point to prove back in the Premier League having made just 13 appearances for his parent club, RB Leipzig, last season following his move from Everton.
Another player that Albion fans will be watching carefully is left back Antonee Robinson. The former Wigan man chose Fulham over Albion in the summer and all Baggies will be hoping that he will be regretting that decision at the conclusion of this match, and of the season.
With tough games against Spurs and Man Utd to follow, assuming football continues beyond this weekend, it is a huge match for Bilić’s boys and a great opportunity to double the club’s points total for the campaign. A win would also end a 57 year wait for a league win at Craven Cottage – read more about the history and statistics of this fixture.