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Fulham 0 v 0 Southampton
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 26th December 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Saints At Fulham The Preview
Saturday, 26th Dec 2020 09:50

Saints head to Fulham but are set to have to take on the Cottagers without 4 of their key players, as they look to push themselves back into the top 5 , can they show the squad has the depth to be able to cope ?

There were some who expressed concerns a few weeks ago that the first XI for Saints was being over played and that Ralph Hasenhuttl wasn't using his squad enough to give key players a rest and keep them fresh.

The warning signs were there after Danny Ings was injured with 10 minutes to go at Aston Villa with the team 4-1 up with 10 minutes to go.

Now Saints go to a tough game against the rejuvenated Fulham without 4 of the vital members of the squad who have put them there, Oriol Romeu is suspended and he is likely to be joined on the sidelines by Danny Ings with a hamstring injury, Jannik Vestergaard with a knee injury and Nathan Redmond has a muscle injury with his hip.

That is a big blow to a squad that has relied on a core of only a dozen outfield players in it's starting line up since the opening two games.

The loss of Jannik Vestergaard will perhaps be the biggest loss, it has been his sudden rise that has been the backbone to which our great run has been built, there are only two real options to replace him, Jack Stephens or the completely untried summer signing Mohammed Salisu.

This highlights why it is a problem, Salisu has been on the bench for the last couple of games, but has not played a game of any kind since July.

Danny Ings failing to pass muster will be a blow but he can be replaced, perhaps not to the levels that he plays at, but Che Adams and Theo Walcott are a decent strike force.

Oriol Romeu will likely be replaced by another summer signing Ibrahima Diallo, but he has played only a few minutes here and there and lacks experience at this level.

This is a game that Saints need to win if they are to keep up their challenge at the top, I keep mentioning three game tranches and if we lose this we will have taken only a single point from the last three games and we are heading off course, win it though and we will be only slightly under the par score needed.

Fulham have picked up of late, since beating Leicester City away from home they have lost only once in the next four games, although the other 3 games have all ended in draws.

We can go into this game with confidence, but will we have too many players in the starting line up who are not match sharp and will take time to find the pace of the game ?

That is my worry especially since Fulham will come out fighting for their lives, knowing that a win could lift them out of the bottom three.

But they have issues of their own, manager Scott Parker is self isolating after a member of his household had a positive Covid 19 test.

Also out is Mario Lemina who cannot play against his parent club Saints, he is likely to be replaced by ex Saint Harrison Reed, both have vied with each other for a place in the starting line up with Scott Parker seemingly deciding that they can't play in the same team, Lemina has been preferred of late, so his absence will probably see Harrison Reed promoted from the bench to replace him.

Ivan Cavaleiro could well be missing up front for a second game and he will be a loss, Kenny Tete not so much so, his wife has had a baby and so he will not feature, but he has made only 2 appearances this season.

New permanent signing Terence Kongolo will again be missing with a long term injury and has not played since his debut back in January after joining on loan from Huddersfield.

I would imagine that Jack Stephens will step in to replace Vestergaard, Diallo to fill in for Romeu and Stuart Armstrong will return to the starting line up as Ralph has a little reshuffle.

I think the starting XI will be:


Walker Peters, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand

Armstrong, Ward Prowse, Diallo, Djenepo

Walcott Adams.

On the bench we will still have options including

Salisu, Tella, N'Lundulu, Long, Smallbone, Valery and Obafemi, all of whom have experience, all bar Salisu in the Premier League, but these options are limited and to be blunt I can't say that we have game changers on the bench as we have had during the previous games.

We can win this game, but we will need to show spirit and get things right at the back, I think we have a strong enough squad to deal with injury crisis's such as this, I would say that the starting line up this afternoon and indeed the bench is still stronger that the one of two years ago when Ralph arrived, we won games back then and can win them now.

But the real issue if the lack of game time for those coming into the side and on the bench, we have not managed substitutions well enough earlier in the season and this has come home to roost this week, the question now is whether that will be a deciding factor or not at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

Photo: Action Images

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underweststand added 11:40 - Dec 26
The maths are simple. We've got 12 points from four games against those clubs near the drop zone.. Fulham is the fifth .

However, we've gained just 4 points from 4 games against those teams above us..
If we are to maintain our strong start we must get a win today as the next two fixtures (West Ham and Liverpool) are both very tough fixtures that we seldom win.

It doesn't matter WHO we have available to play, they are all in the squad, and if they're good enough ...they will have to do. We have to win to stay in the race. End of...

Wembley76 added 11:56 - Dec 26
Err, please have a wee bit more faith, Nick. The only weak link, as I see it, is picking Jack S anywhere in the centre of a back four ~ can't mark tight enough, ball watches too often, better covering one of the wide (fullback/wingback) positions

Saidou added 07:47 - Dec 27
Nick is usually the most positive but he's been different this season. Why? Idk..

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