Fulham has won 3 of the last 4 games vs West Ham at home
West Ham has not won 4 PL games in a row since 2014
Fulham has gone 20 PL games without a clean sheet, conceding 51 goals in that span
Fulham begins a critical four-game stretch, sitting bottom of the Premier League table and needing points as they host West Ham at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, live on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.
The Whites’ next four matches see them take on the Hammers, followed by games against Newcastle, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Huddersfield Town. They sit in the basement of the standings, but are just four points from safety. Fulham has secured four points in four matches under new manager Claudio Ranieri, but were also thoroughly beaten by both Chelsea and Manchester United, meaning the games against fellow relegation candidates are becoming more and more critical.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is unavailable after a controversial second yellow card against Manchester United saw him sent for an early shower. Maxime Le Marchand is a big miss for the Whites, out with an undisclosed muscular injury, but that is the extent of their unavailable list as Calum Chambers, Floyd Ayite, Andre Schurrle, and Kevin McDonald are all ready to go, Ranieri confirmed.
Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere will miss his third straight match for West Ham as he recovers from an ankle injury, and Lucas Perez is likely unavailable due to a cut on his foot, but otherwise the Hammers are fully fit as they look for an opportunity to move into the top half of the table.
West Ham was in the bottom third of the table for much of the first few months of the season, but they have climbed to 11th with a run of seven matches that features just one loss. That includes a current three-match winning streak that has seen West Ham drop three relegation candidates in Newcastle, Cardiff City, and Crystal Palace, by a combined 9-3 score. With Fulham up this weekend followed by matches against Watford, Southampton, Burnley, and Brighton, this is the time for the Hammers to pick up a swath of points and brace for a grueling final third of the season.
What they’re saying
Ranieri on Fulham’s lack of a clean sheet this season: “The players are improving a lot with my tactics. It’s normal they need time to understand everything. Sooner or later, we’ll keep a clean sheet – I hope it’s sooner rather than later.”
Pellegrini on playing a team near the bottom: “I said last week, the most stupid thing we can do is to believe that because we are playing against teams near the bottom of the table we will win. We must be very careful, thinking game by game.”
While West Ham is playing well, they will be up against a team that knows this four-game stretch is critical. Still, Fulham’s midfield is a complete mess, and they have lots to work on. The defense is a bad matchup for a Hammers side on a roll in front of net. That run will continue, as West Ham wins 3-1 behind another big attacking performance.
20. Southampton *New season low* — New manager Ralph Hasenhuttl loses his first test, this one to Neil Warnock‘s buzzing Bluebirds. Arsenal at home won’t be easier, even if some of the Gunners play Europa League on Thursday. Last week: 17 Season high: 13 Season low: 20
19. Fulham — Claudio Ranieri‘s men were battered by Manchester United, and surging West Ham is next. Last week: 17 Season high: 11 Season low: 20
18. Burnley — A win is a win, even the Clarets had just 37 percent possession at home to Brighton and Hove Albion. Last week: 20 Season high: 13 Season low: 20
17. Crystal Palace *New season low* — Dreadful, but cannot be placed lower than a Burnley side it beats mere weeks ago. Last week: 16 Season high: 6 Season low: 16
16. Huddersfield Town *New season high* — A squad ready for a breakout performance, will the Terriers get it against Newcastle? Last week: 18 Season high: 16 Season low: 20
15. Cardiff City — Neil Warnock has us thinking the Bluebirds just could pull off this whole safety thing. Last week: 15 Season high: 15 Season low: 20
14. Newcastle United — Stung by referee Mike Dean’s calls, right or wrong, the Magpies will want to take care of rising Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Last week: 14 Season high: 13 Season low: 19
13. Watford — Staying level with ex-boss Marco Silva and star sale Richarlison was nice. Last week: 13 Season high: 4 Season low: 14
12. Bournemouth — Another top-end test failed, and the Cherries have lost five of six. Last week: 10 Season high: 6 Season low: 12
11. Brighton and Hove Albion — Lost to Burnley. That’s not what we expected from this improving squad. Last week: 9 Season high: 9 Season low: 19
10. Wolves — Back-to-back wins over Chelsea and Newcastle — even with the Magpies down to 10 men — help Nuno Espirito Santo get back into the Top Ten. Last week: 12 Season high: 5 Season low: 13
9. Leicester City — The Spurs loss is another failed test, but few challengers have met the Foxes’ season head-on. Last week: 8 Season high: 7 Season low: 13
8. West Ham United *New season high* —Manuel Pellegrini‘s men had the opportunity to make a run like this, but they’ve really taken advantage of it. There are 15 more points available before the Hammers meet a Top Six challenger (Arsenal). Last week: 11
Season high: 9
Season low: 20
7. Everton — The 2-2 draw with Watford showed moxie. Marco Silva won’t have appreciated the draw against the club that hired, celebrated, and then tortured him, but he’ll have another chance. Last week: 6 Season high: 5 Season low: 13
6. Manchester United — The battering of Fulham was much-needed, if short-lived. The Liverpool test on Sunday could be a colossal moment for their festive season. Last week: 7 Season high: 4 Season low: 14
5. Arsenal — The 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town was not ideal, even if the Terriers have been much improved in recent weeks. Last week: 3 Season high: 2 Season low: 9
4. Chelsea — The win over Man City could snap the Blues out of their funk, but there’s reason to believe there’s always another funk looming for mercurial Eden Hazard and Co. Last week: 5 Season high: 1 Season low: 5
3. Spurs — That’s two-straight wins after the North London Derby debacle, and the victory at Leicester City is an impressive step back in the right direction. Last week: 4 Season high: 2 Season low: 8
2. Man City — Yeesh, that wasn’t fun, was it? A 2-0 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge may’ve been without Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, but it was a loss. That hasn’t happened to Liverpool. Last week: 1 Season high: 1 Season low: 2
1. Liverpool — They defied Omar Little by coming at the king and missing, only to outlast Man City in the race to stay perfect. Now there’s a Sunday ramble versus Manchester United. Last week: 2 Season high: 1 Season low: 4
The almost always quotable Fulham manager entertained a bit more than his did in attempting to explain the loss. From the BBC:
“In the first half we were shy, we were waiting. Why? Why were we waiting? Go, play football. Then, if they score, it is normal. I want my team to play and fight for every single ball. In the second half, we did. Why we didn’t in the first half, I need to speak with my players.”
“In the first half it was 11 lambs against 11 wolves. The wolves ate the lambs.”
Fulham remain 20th in the table, with a league-worst goal differential of minus-26. The Cottagers host West Ham before heading away to Newcastle in two matches in which they’ll be hoping to collect points.
Man United has won 21 of 23 home matches against Fulham
Fulham has won just once at Old Trafford in any competition
Fulham has lost six straight PL road games
Manchester United returns home a wounded animal as the Red Devils host Fulham on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).
The Red Devils have not won in Premier League play in over a month, without victory since a visit to Bournemouth in early November. They are set to take on an opponent they have had much success against in the past, having lost just once at home against Fulham in 23 matches.
With pressure heaped on Jose Mourinho – needing a vote of confidence via the boss’s own agent to quiet the noise – Fulham could do significant damage to the Portuguese manager should they achieve a rare result at Old Trafford. It would also be a significant boost to the Whites’ relegation battle, currently sitting bottom of the table with nine points, below Southampton and Burnley on goal differential.
Claudio Ranieri has come on board in place of the departed Slavisa Jokanovic and done well to steady the ship, earning four points in his first three matches in charge, instilling a greater defensive discipline within the squad. Still, the Whites have the league’s worst defensive record by a considerable margin, and could be just what the doctor ordered for a Manchester United team that has scored five goals over the four-match winless run.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on Fulham: “The game is not eleven versus zero, it’s going to be eleven versus eleven, with good players on the other side, the position and points [total] don’t say much about [the] potential of the team. They have one of the two most important managers in Premier League history, they have the potential to come here and give us a difficult match.”
Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri on Jose Mourinho: “He was the first who sent me a message to say welcome back. He is a very friendly friend. I know him for a long time, when he came to Chelsea and in Italy, and he was very polite with me. He’s a great man, coach, manager.”
This is a tough one to predict, as many possibilities are in play. Manchester United could succumb to its most embarrassing defeat of the season if Ranieri can devise a plan to take advantage of a wounded squad, or the talent of the Red Devils could prove too much for a Fulham side that is only recently beginning to build confidence. The latter is more likely, and the young internationals at the head of the United attack will hold serve at home for a 2-1 victory and leave Fulham still with more work to do in the relegation battle.