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Premier League Preview: Fulham v. Liverpool

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  • Fulham manager Scott Parker could have forward Andre Schurrle (virus) available, but Alfie Mawson and Marcus Bettinelli (both knee) remain sidelined for Fulham.
  • Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson is ruled out after sustaining an ankle injury in midweek, although Naby Keita (minor injury) could return. 
  • The Reds are unbeaten in their last 11 PL matches against promoted sides (W10 D1), winning the last eight in a row. They have scored 31 goals and conceded just four in that run since a 2-0 loss at Hull City in February 2017.

Liverpool showed in midweek that they have the quality to make another deep run in the UEFA Champions League. Now, back in Premier League action, Liverpool will look to jump-start major pieces of their attack with a trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham on Sunday (Watch live, 10:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Mo Salah has scored 17 Premier League goals this season, but none in the past five games in all competitions. Likewise, outside of a brace last week against Burnley, Roberto Firmino hasn’t scored in six of seven games played since the start of February. Against Fulham’s struggling defense, those two found find their form in front of goal.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

It’s been a rough season meanwhile for Fulham, which looks incredibly likely to be relegated to the Championship. Fulham hasn’t won since January, is on its third manager of the year, and needs 12 points to survive another season in the Premier League. Against Liverpool, it might be a case of just hoping for a draw, or keeping the score close.

What they’re saying

Fulham coach Scott Parker on facing a title contender: “Hopefully we’ll have an influence on the title race. We’ve got some very good footballers at the club and we need to start getting the best out of them. They have a chance at the weekend in front of the cameras to prove how good they are. If we play the way we want to play, we can cause an upset and we can get points. I’ve seen an upturn daily in the players in the way they’re training. Their standards have gone up tenfold.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp on the impact of beating Bayern: “Last year I think when we came through it was always about a sensational, free-flowing kind of football in a specific way: scoring from all areas, stuff like that. This was, from my point of view, the most mature performance we had so far in all European competitions since I am in and I like that a lot. It was really good. I said after the game, in a game like this it’s pretty rare that one team is shining completely and the other team has a bad hair day or whatever. It doesn’t happen a lot, so you have to work for each yard, for each inch, and that’s what the boys did. In the decisive moments you have to be there defensively and offensively. It was really good, I was really happy and it was not to expect in that way. People spoke about ‘Bayern was not really like Bayern usually is’ – I would say all the credit to my boys because we didn’t let them. That’s all we have to do in game like this.”

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Prediction

Liverpool can go top of the league with a win, and even coming off the emotional high of beating Bayern Munich, they should still have more than enough quality to defeat Fulham. Liverpool 3-0 Fulham

 

PL Sunday preview: Merseyside, west London derbies on tap

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A big weekend of Premier League derbies wraps up on Sunday, when Merseyside and west London showdowns take center stage with plenty of title and top-four implications.

[ MORE: Man City win, lose KDB | Man United come back, beat Southampton ]

Watford v. Leicester City — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Brendan Rodgers is set to make his return to the PL when he debuts as Leicester manager on Sunday. Rodgers, who was appointed the Foxes’ new boss earlier this week, was in attendance for his new side’s 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday — a result that snapped the six-game winless skid (five losses) that ultimately cost Claude Puel his job. It was Leicester’s first victory since New Year’s Day. Rodgers was hugely successful at Celtic — two league titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups in two-plus seasons — his first stop after being fired by Liverpool in October 2015.

Up first is a trip to eighth-place Watford, a side that went to Anfield and suffered a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool on Wednesday, just five days after hanging five goals of their own on Cardiff City. The Hornets, under first-year boss Javi Gracia, haven’t lost back-to-back games since the first week of December, a streak which included a 2-1 defeat to Leicester in these sides’ first meeting of 2018-19.

INJURIES: Watford —  OUT: None | Leicester — OUT: Marc Albrighton (hamstring), Daniel Amartey (ankle)


Fulham v. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Fulham’s first season back in the PL will almost certainly end with the west London club making an immediate return to the Championship, but that fact hardly suffices to explain the Cottagers’ struggles this season: following Claudio Ranieri‘s dismissal and the appointment of Scott Parker as interim manager, Fulham have now employed the same number of managers as they have won games (4). The deficit they must overcome to pull off the greatest escape the PL has ever seen? 10 points with 10 games left to play, beginning with a visit from nearby Chelsea on Sunday.

Speaking of managers coming under fire of late, Maurizio Sarri‘s situation at Chelsea is hardly any better these days. Not only have the fans turned on him, but the Blues have lost three of their last five league games while also falling flat in the League Cup final. That league form has seen them tumble to sixth in the PL table, now five points back of fourth-place Manchester United, though Chelsea now have a pair of games in hand. Sarri says Kepa Arrizabalaga will reclaim his place as first-choice goalkeeper in one of the next two games after refusing to be subbed off in that final defeat, giving way to Willy Caballero to keep the clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

INJURIES: Fulham —  OUT: Alfie Mawson (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Andre Schurrle (illness) | Chelsea — OUT: Danny Drinkwater (undisclosed)


Everton v. Liverpool — 11:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Sure, Liverpool would be delighted to complete their second double over Everton in three seasons’ time, but the Reds will have their sights set much higher than Merseyside dominance on Sunday. Now two points back of Manchester City in the PL title race, Jurgen Klopp‘s side needs all three points from one of its toughest games each season to keep pace with the defending champions and remain on pace to lift England’s top-flight trophy at Anfield for the first time since 1990 (pre-PL era). Having only beaten the Toffees in the season’s first meeting via one of the stranger goals you’ll ever see, the trip to Goodison should prove more difficult than Everton’s ninth-place standing might indicate.

Everton have a bit more confidence now than they would have had this, the 233rd edition of the derby, been played earlier this week. After losing three straight, by a combined score of 6-1, Marco Silva‘s side bounced back with a 3-0 thrashing of Cardiff on Tuesday — a result that might have just bought the first-year Portuguese manager a bit of time. Of particular worry for Everton: star forward Richarlison, who paced the side with 10 goals until Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s brace against Cardiff pulled him one ahead, went without a goal for the entire month of February and has scored just one PL goal since Boxing Day.

INJURIES: Everton —  QUESTIONABLE: Leighton Baines (ribs) | Liverpool — OUT: Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Joe Gomez (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Roberto Firmino (ankle)

Fulham’s Ranieri fired

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Claudio Ranieri met with his Fulham bosses on Thursday and the Cottagers relieved him of his duties, setting up the London club for a three-manager Premier League relegation season.

Again. Woof.

[ MORE: PL relegation picture in focus ]

Ranieri took over for Slavisa Jokanovic in November, with the club mired in last place via five points in 12 matches.

The former Leicester City and Chelsea boss has overseen 16 matches, with Fulham acquiring a further 12 points.

Scott Parker will serve as caretaker manager, and Fulham did not put too much blame on Ranieri. From FulhamFC.com:

“Following our discussion this afternoon, Claudio Ranieri agreed to my decision that a change was in the best interest of everyone. No surprise to me, Claudio was a perfect gentleman, as always. Claudio’s tenure at Fulham didn’t produce the outcome we anticipated and needed when I appointed him as Manager in November, but be assured he is not solely to blame for the position we are in today.”

The Cottagers sit 10 points back of 17th place Southampton despite splashing big summer money on Aleksandar Mitrovic, Jean Michael Seri, Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa, and Andre Schurrle amongst others.

They were a sexy pick to compete for a Europa League place but have instead wallowed in the relegation zone all season.

Is that on Ranieri? His resume suggested him as an ideal candidate to quickly bring a new team together, but it hasn’t happened and the side continues to ship goal after goal.

That seems likely to be down to players more than system, but here we sit with Jokanovic-Ranieri-Parker ready to be the new Jol-Meulensteen-Magath.

Fulham boss Ranieri acknowledges fan unrest amid relegation fight

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Claudio Ranieri is losing the battle against relegation at the helm of Fulham, but that’s not all he’s losing. The fans are turning on him as well.

Fulham fans jeered Ranieri’s substitutions during the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United, and he recognized their unrest in his post-match media availability.

“I know the fans were not happy but I had two players with flu in the week, including Andre Schurrle,” Ranieri said. “I can understand the fans always want their players to play but it’s not always possible. We will work to try and win our next two games. We’re always positive.”

While Fulham fans have taken to Schurrle – winner of January’s Premier League Goal of the Month award for his stunner against Burnley – that’s not all they’re upset about. Fan favorites Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon were both unused substitutes against Manchester United, even with the team playing from behind early on.

Ranieri has said publicly he wishes to play far more direct than his predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic, who became well-liked for his free-flowing, possession-based style of play, to which Cairney and Sessegnon were vastly important. Now, with Ranieri’s style far from that which saw Fulham win promotion to the Premier League under Jokanovic, he has left Cairney and Sessegnon on the bench for multiple matches, causing Fulham fans to question the Italian’s decision-making.

While those two are ball-playing midfielders who are less useful in a more direct setup, they are vital players to the club for the last three seasons, leaving fans wondering whether the manager should adapt more to the squad’s best players. Fans also have become attached to Jokanovic’s style of play, and many opposed the decision to let him go in November, fairly or unfairly giving Ranieri an even shorter lead, and coupled with just one win and five defeats in the last six matches under the new style of play, fans are beginning to lose patience quickly.

What’s more, the club’s porous defense – the worst in the top five European leagues by goals conceded – has capitulated early in matches, conceding inside the opening half-hour in four of their last five matches, including a 14th-minute goal by Paul Pogba that began the Old Trafford defeat on Saturday, with Anthony Martial scoring nine minutes later to double the lead. Cairney and Sessegnon both came off the bench in that game, but not until the final 13 minutes.

Fulham stun Brighton with wild comeback (video)

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  • Brighton led 2-0 at half time
  • Fulham score four times in second half
  • First win in 4 PL games for Fulham

Fulham launched an amazing second half comeback to beat Brighton 4-2 at a snowy Craven Cottage.

Brighton scored twice early on through Glenn Murray, but Fulham came roaring back in the second half as Calum Chambers and Luciano Vietto scored one each and Aleksandar Mitrovic grabbed a double.

With the win Fulham and Claudio Ranieri are now just four points from safety, while Brighton’s slump down the table continues.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brighton got off to the best possible start as Murray swept home Martin Montoya’s cross wonderfully to make it 1-0.

At the other end Maxime Le Marchand went close for the hosts, but Fulham just couldn’t get going.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Brighton doubled their lead before half time as a cross from the right was only half cleared and Pascal Gross flicked the ball towards goal where the wily fox Murray was waiting to flick home. 2-0.

Ryan Babel drilled a wonderful low shot from distance which Mat Ryan pushed away as Fulham pushed hard to get back in the game. Murray almost bagged his hat trick but Sergio Rico saved well and at the other end Andre Schurrle had a shot brilliantly cleared by Shane Duffy. Davy Propper then smashed the crossbar as Brighton almost put the game to bed.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ] 

At the start of the second half Fulham got the goal they craved, as Mitrovic nodded down and Chambers smashed home to make it 2-1. Game on.

Mitrovic almost bundled home a second Fulham goal moments later as the Cottagers built up a head of steam. Gross almost got on the end of a Brighton break, then Fulham substitute Luciano Vietto went close as his shot was deflected. From the resulting corner Fulham were level.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

After the corner was cleared, another ball looped into the box and Mitrovic pounced to head home and make it 2-2.

Fulham were flying late on and Jean Michel Seri went so close to putting them ahead but his low curled hit the post and came back out. Murray was then denied a hat trick goal by Rico with a wonderful stop, and a key moment arrived soon after.

Mitrovic put home another header to make it 3-2 to Fulham to spark wild scenes of celebration at Craven Cottage, and late on it got even better as Vietto made it 4-2.

What a comeback from the Cottagers to breath new life into their relegation scrap.