City travel to London tomorrow to take on Fulham, who currently occupy 19th place on 13 points. The Blues are on a great run of form and will look to continue that with another strong away performance at Craven Cottage, where Fulham have won only twice so far this season. I spoke with Andrew Beck from Fulham's SB Nation blog 'Cottagers Confidential' to find out more about our foes heading into the match. I also did a Q&A for them, which can be found here.
- B&B: Let's get the obvious out of the way first; can you summarize why Fulham have been so poor this year?
CC: Last season Fulham had the heart of the team ripped out when they lost Clint Dempsey, Moussa Dembele, and Danny Murphy all at once.They never really were able to rebuild during the season. This year, instead of investing, Mohamed Al Fayed was preparing the club to be sold. By the time Shahid Kahn purchased the team, he didn't have enough time to evaluate what was there and invest to fix the holes. Add into this a manager who was on the last year of a contract in an unsure position with new management and you have everything you need for a disaster.
- B&B: Do you think Rene Meulensteen can keep the team from getting relegated?
CC: I do think Meulensteen can keep the team up. The bottom of the table is pretty poor this year, and I don't think it takes that much. I also don't believe Shahid Kahn will let the team go down without trying to invest some money in January to fix things. It's expensive to spend in January, but the amount of value the club loses by going down dwarfs that investment.
- B&B: What kind of moves do you foresee Fulham making in the transfer window in January? What areas of the team are in most need of reinforcements?
CC: The Clint Dempsey loan looks like a done deal at this point. Even though it's only going to be two months, he could have a big impact. I also think we might have seen the last of Bryan Ruiz. He's a talented player, but Meulensteen doesn't seem committed to building a squad around him. Dempsey is a good person to bring in and bridge the gap to Ruiz's eventual replacement. The team is still thin in central midfield. They could really use a more creative box to box type that allows Scott Parker, Steve Sidwell, and Derek Boateng to concentrate on holding duties. With Brede Hangeland hurt and questions about how effective he might be when coming back, I see center back as a pretty big need. Finally, depending on what happens with Berbatov, you might see the club need to bring in a new striker.
- B&B: Individual form and injury situation currently at Fulham? Do you foresee any changes in personnel particularly for this match?
CC: The team has actually played quite well since Meulensteen took over. Berbatov has been exceptional. Guys like Girgios Karagounis, Ashkan Dejagah, and John Arne Riise have come back from Jol's dog house and played quite well. I'm not 100% sure who the first choice LB is at this point. With Jol, it was Kieran Richardson. Richardson has been hurt since Meulensteen has been in charge, so Riise has been back playing. That's probably the one position you might see a change.
- B&B: Finally, a prediction? Where do you see the key battles being fought out on the pitch?
CC: City has been so poor away from home in the league this year that I want to think Fulham has a shot. Plus, the pitch at Craven Cottage is so small compared to the expansive surface at the Etihad that I could see it giving City tons of problems. I'm going to be optimistic and predict a 1-1 draw. City mostly dominating, but the attack being bogged down by the small pitch. Then one moment of Berbatov brilliance bringing in a Fulham goal.
Thanks to Andrew for his time!