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Sunday Fulham Stuff (04/12/11)...

Started by WhiteJC, December 04, 2011, 08:42:22 AM

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Riise ready for Liverpool
by DAN on DECEMBER 3, 2011

John Arne Riise acknowledges that his seven years at Liverpool were the best of his career so far – but he will be out to get one over on his old club when they travel to Fulham on Monday night.

The Norwegian left back will face his former club for the first time at Craven Cottage on Monday, having signed for Fulham from Roma in the summer. He looks back with fondness on his spell at Anfield, where he made more than 300 appearances and won five trophies.

I felt those seven years were the best seven years of my career. I was lucky enough to come into a squad who had just won the treble in 2000/2001 and it just went on from there, winning the the Champions League and the FA Cup and the Carling Cup and stuff was like a dream come true.

It was hard to leave, I had a lot of friends there and I got to love the club and it's supporters. I just left because that was my choice and I didn't have much choice to stay if I wanted to improve as a player and play.

But it was always in my mind that I wanted to return to the Premier League. So after two years it was quite an easy decision to come back. I have heard people say that they haven't really replaced me but that is not my concern. If they wanted me back they could have made an effort.

I know a few of the fans wanted me back but I hadn't heard anything and it wasn't even an issue because what's happened has gone.

Riise almost signed for Fulham back in 2001, going as far as agreeing a contract with the then newly promoted Cottagers, before deciding to join Liverpool.

It was very close but I ended up with Liverpool and I do not regret my decision there because what I've experienced and the games I played in. And I don't regret going here now. I'm very happy here.


Preview: Fulham v Liverpool (Mon)

Jordan Henderson is in contention for a Liverpool start when the Reds face Fulham at Craven Cottage on Monday.

Henderson could start in a central role after fellow midfielder Lucas Leiva was ruled out for the rest of the season with the knee injury he sustained in the midweek Carling Cup win at Chelsea.

Jay Spearing is another contender for the role, while Jonjo Shelvey has been recalled from his loan spell at Blackpool as back-up. Captain Steven Gerrard, however, remains on the sidelines with an ankle infection.

Reds fans will hope that their boys can stand up as well to struggling Fulham as they did in the recent Premier League and Cup wins over Chelsea and in last week's league draw at home to Manchester City, a game they could well have won.

Fulham have their own midfield problems, with wide man Damien Duff a big doubt for manager Martin Jol.

The Republic of Ireland winger suffered the recurrence of a troubling calf injury in Thursdays Europa League defeat to FC Twente, and will be heavily monitored ahead of the visitors of the Reds.

Forward Moussa Dembele was also an injury victim in that game and linped off, but he is expected to be fit.

Jol, either way, will be boosted by the returns of Clint Dempsey, after a thigh injury, and Bryan Ruiz, who was cup-tied for the game against his old team in Holland.

Fulham (from): Schwarzer, Etheridge, Baird, Riise, Kelly, Hangeland, Hughes, Dembele, Briggs, Kasami, Duff, Murphy, Gecov, Etuhu, Ruiz, Dempsey, Frei, Johnson, Zamora, Sa.

Liverpool (from): Reina, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique, Henderson, Adam, Spearing, Downing, Kuyt, Suarez, Doni, Kelly, Carragher, Coates, Shelvey, Coady, Rodriguez, Carroll, Bellamy.



Mark Schwarzer believes Fulham cannot use tiredness as an excuse for poor performance.

The goalkeeper has played club football for more than two decades and his been a mainstay for Australia since his debut in 1993.

Schwarzer is still excelling for club and country at the age of 39 and, despite having played 27 Fulham matches already this season, refuses to acknowledge tiredness as an excuse for players.

"It's one of those things," said Schwarzer, who faces Liverpool at Craven Cottage on Monday.

"When people ask me about the national team and the amount of travelling and the number of games that we play, for me it's all about a mental approach and a mind set.

"You've got a long time to recuperate after you've finished playing.

"When you talk about the demands of the English Premier League, yes they are tough.

"But you're playing in one of the best leagues in the world and do you expect any different?

"I don't have to play for my national team. I want to play for my national team, if I'm selected, as much as possible. It's an honour.

"If anyone asks me if I want to play a game of football or a manager asks me if I want to play I will always respond in the same way because I want to play as many games as I possibly can."

Schwarzer also believes end-of-season fatigue is no excuse for the England team at Euro 2012.

"It is interesting because if you look at the players who have played for England, there are a lot of players who have been rested a lot of the time as well," he said.

"They're playing for big clubs with big squads and there's a lot of resting going on between games as well, which is great.

"That gives these guys the maximum opportunity to recover and be right for the next game.

"I think as well it depends on the atmosphere of the group of players.

"[If you look at 2010], at the back of the season when we got to the Europa League final and I played seventy games, I then went to a World Cup.

"If that's not enough to lift anyone then nothing in football will be enough to lift you.

"It's the environment. When I get to go away with the national team it's a completely different environment, it's a different buzz and you're raring to go.

"You want to be successful. You want to be together as a team as long as possible."

Schwarzer made his 13th Europa League start of the season in Thursday's 1-0 defeat at FC Twente.

Fulham have struggled to cope with the exertions of playing on a Thursday night and then the following weekend, but Schwarzer remains philosophical on its impact.

"It can be tough at the beginning because you can get frustrated if results go against you a little bit, but you've got to take a long-term approach," he said.

"You've got to look at it and think: 'OK, well the games may have gone against us this weekend, but we've got 38 league games to play this season and cup games as well'.

"The league is obviously the number one priority and there are enough of us in the squad at Fulham who are experienced enough to realise that and we make sure that everyone is aware of that as well."



Bryan Ruiz believes he can help provide the goals Fulham have lacked so far this season.

The 26-year-old winger watched from the stands on Thursday night as the Cottagers suffered a last-gasp 1-0 Europa League defeat to his former club FC Twente in Holland.

Ruiz was ineligible for the encounter that saw Fulham struggle going forward, which has become a hallmark of their season.

Aside from a 6-0 defeat of QPR, goals have been hard to come by but summer signing Ruiz is confident he can help sway things after a stop-start beginning to life in west London.

"I was not frustrated by my start at Fulham but of course I would like it to have been better," he said.

"It is a process I have to follow with Fulham in the Premier League and I am feeling very good.

"I feel strong and hopefully I will get more minutes.

"I think I can help provide goals. All the players will do our best and do better in the team.

"I think we have good quality up front. We have many good players that can score and create chances.

"We have to improve that because I know we can do much better.

"Personally, I will try to do my best as I know my team-mates will do too."

While not involved on Thursday night, Ruiz was a focal point of proceedings as he was honoured before the game kicked-off by the home side.

The Costa Rica international left Twente in the summer and was given a hero's welcome at De Grolsch Veste, where he did a lap of honour after receiving gifts from the club.

"It was really, really nice and very emotional to be on the pitch and say goodbye to the supporters," Ruiz said after the 15-minute fanfare.

"They invited me over a couple of weeks ago.

"I could not say goodbye to them before so it was nice to have the chance.

"I got a good reception and I am very thankful what they have done. For me it was remarkable.

"I have such good memories here and am thankful to them."

He added: "I think Fulham fans [now] know how special my stay in Twente was.

"I spent two years and won the championship, which had never happened here before.

"I won the cup and Super Cup twice so they recognised my job here and I am really thankful."

Ruiz hopes one day to receive such adulation in west London, but first wants to help Fulham get over Thursday night's loss in the upcoming match with Liverpool.

"It was really nice to play against Arsenal [last weekend] and I am fit to play on Monday," he said.

"The team did well and I felt very good so I enjoyed it.

"Liverpool is a good team and it is a tough game, but we have to try and win against everyone at home.

"It was a shame to lose against Twente, but that is football.

"Fulham didn't play the best match and Twente, you could say, deserved to win the match more."


Why an in-form Craig Bellamy will score for Liverpool at Fulham
Craig Bellamy is in great form - and The Tipster is confident he will find the net at Craven Cottage on Monday night

Craig Bellamy's sparkling display against Chelsea in midweek has not gone unnoticed. The Liverpool forward is in fine form and The Tipster is playing up the Welshman's chances of finding the net against Fulham on Monday.

Liverpool's visit to Craven Cottage is also likely to feature plenty of goals and a fair few cards, according to our resident betting expert.
And our man-in-the-know has even found the time and space to have his say about Everton's clash with Stoke City the day before.

Craig Bellamy to score at any time for Liverpool – 13/5

Following his excellent performance in midweek against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, The Tipster is backing Craig Bellamy to find the net in London at Craven Cottage. The Welshman set up both of the Merseysiders' goals against The Blues, producing an outstanding performance just days after withdrawing from the squad to face Manchester City at Anfield following the tragic death of Wales boss Gary Speed. The Tipster has been left thoroughly impressed by Bellamy's contributions so far this term – and he's backing him to continue his fine form on Monday night, with 13/5 definitely worth a punt.

Over 2.5 goals in Fulham v Liverpool – 11/10

There have been 20 goals in Fulham's six home fixtures this season, while Liverpool will be in buoyant mood after their wins against Chelsea both league and Cup. And Kenny Dalglish's Reds should have beaten Manchester City after an impressive performance at Anfield last Sunday. Expect an open and exciting game in west London on Monday night, with goals looking like excellent value here.

Over 3.5 cards in Fulham v Liverpool – 8/11

Kevin Friend will be the man in the middle at Craven Cottage on Monday night. In his seven matches this season, the Leicestershire man has issued 31 yellow cards. With some aggressive players likely to feature on Monday night, over 3.5 cards looks tremendous value in this fixture.

Everton to beat Stoke City – 4/6

David Moyes' Everton have improved in recent weeks with good victories over Wolves at Goodison Park and Bolton at The Reebok. Stoke are bound to pose a tougher test – but with the Potters fielding their strongest line-up against Dynamo Kiev in a hard-fought draw on Thursday night, Everton will fancy their chances on Sunday. Stoke have lost all four of their away Premier League gmaes that have come after Europa League group stage fixtures. Therefore, 4/6 on Everton looks good value in this one.

The long shot: Maxi Rodríguez to score at any time at Fulham – 5/1

Maxi impressed in Liverpool's two victories at the end of November, finding the net in both the Premier League and Carling Cup games at Chelsea. The 30-year-old has spent a large portion of the season on the subtitutes' bench but when handed his chance to shine, he normally seizes it. The Argentine enjoyed a purple patch towards the end of the last campaign and Liverpool fans will remember that stunning hat-trick at Craven Cottage. So, The Tipster's speculative long-range effort this time around is for Rodríguez to score any time at 5/1.


Still looking for clues

Was it really such a surprise to be served up another dose of frustration away from home in Holland? The shortcomings are there for all to see, and fans are getting restless

The bigger picture says Fulham can book their passage into the last 32 by keeping their interest in the Europa League alive with a win over Odense in two weeks time. Home advantage against the weakest team in the group will see us over the line, while Wisla must go for a win home to Twente, so the seven points we already have could be enough.

There really are no positives to pick out of Thursday's narrow defeat at the De Grolsch Veste. It was just all so predictable. What I saw as a vibrant match up when the draw was made, turned into a squib as damp as the Dutch weather. Pity the 1300 odd supporters who shelled out for the latest Fulham instalment of death by boredom.

Maybe it was the financial hit that seemed to provoke a rash of hostile postings to Friday's forums. This blog has been highlighting the impending crisis for some weeks. Others have now woken up to the fact that Jol simply doesn't know how to inspire this group of players. The only one of our summer signings to make any kind of impression has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

None of our fringe players have come to the fore, we've heard talk the technical and tactical coaching has fallen away, body language suggests the squad are not enjoying it much. Now some tough December games may see the terraces turn on Jol.

As we saw yet again in Holland, Brede and Mark are playing out of their skins to maintain defensive respectability - despite the gaffer undermining the Hughes-Hangerland axis. Jol will also blindly continue selecting JAR, as it's his signing, despite the Norwegian being a busted flush and past his best. Where did Twente's late winner come from? The left-back flank of course.

Twice in the closing minutes as the Whites looked to hang on, Riise banged tired balls up to halfway and straight to a red shirt.

Slipping over in the build up to the goal didn't help either. No suprise then when our old guard concede a late goal as for the final ten minutes we simply have nobody upfield capable of holding on to the ball. Kasami wasn't on for long but was awful. As for poor old Andy...has little more to offer than effort.

For the third away game in a row no man in white looks like scoring, and did we even force a corner? BZ poked a golden opportunity past the post from a clever free-kick routine, but was not on the end of anything created in open play. AJ skewed a big chance well wide after a lucky ricochet in the box and, er...that was it. Our only winger lasts half an hour before his suspect calf flares up, the clockwork mouse that is Moussa then also picks up a strain. AJ compounds his average display by stupidly kicking the ball away to draw a needless red card. Thus ends Andy's career in Europe, summed up by his own frustration. Banned for the Odense game and off to QPR in January.

Some extreme reaction was calling for a mass cull by Friday. That rarely happens in football. Our England striker was not spared either, more than a few implying Zamo should be shown the door and the club might as well cash in on anyone foolish enough to pay above £10 million for Dembele. My view? I'd personally drive Moussa anywhere he wants to go - he's a luxury we can't afford. But I think Bobby is putting in a tough old shift for the side for little reward. Criticism of his play this season is wrong.

Here's a quote from Steve Kean (of all people) referencing Yakubu after Blackburn's 4-2 win over Swansea. "He's performed fantastically well, but a striker is only as good as his service and that was excellent."

Now apply that to Zamora. Jol's demanding more goals from him. Well if he spent all game in and around the box like Darren Bent, and if we had anyone in the side capable of getting down the wing and crossing the ball, dear old Bobby might be hitting the back of the net more regularly. Don't blame the engine Martin, it's the man at the wheel! No wonder Zamo comes off after 70 fruitless minutes as sole striker, holding the ball up, pulling out to the wing, and tracking back to defend looking ready to chin someone. Reflect on how many of this season's goals BZ has played a crucial part in. The big man has plenty to offer, but in the current Fulham side even Cristiano Ronaldo would struggle to score.

I cannot offer a solution to our current woes, but then I'm not being paid £2million per year to come up with answers. What worries me, I don't think Jol has any better ideas than the rest of us. It's of course tempting to place all our bets on reinforcements arriving in January. That is worrying. It's never the best time to recruit. Is there much talent around? Any big gambles have to provide a fairly rapid payback. No gradual 'bedding in' as has been the case with Ruiz.

The burning question to be asked, is Jol going to hang on to his job? Consider this. Over the next four games, Liverpool (h), Swansea (a), Bolton (h), Man Utd (h) we could very well manage just a point - say, a nervy draw with Bolton, with the rest defeats. That would leave the club on 13 points from 17, and just two wins over the season. Those precise statistics got Lawrie Sanchez the sack in 2007.

Let's put a lighter note into the weekend. "Knife found in Chelsea Dressing Room," screamed the back page of Friday's Daily Mail. Just as the CEO at the Bridge feared yet another unwanted scandal to compound Terry's on-going issues with his potty mouth rant, Fulham rode to the rescue. The knife in question belonged to them. "Yes indeed, confirmed a club spokesman, we knew it had to be one of ours as we've had no cutting edge since going there in the Carling Cup." Case closed.

And the footballing week was not without its highlights. I especially enjoyed Spurs embarrassment at the Lane at the hands of PAOK, even more so than the Palace win at Old Trafford. Heartwarming to see that even these two highflyers have as much dross in their ranks as Fulham when it comes to picking fringe players. There's hope for us yet. Hmm, Liverpool without Lucas for Monday's game...think I'll have to spend all Sunday building up some positivity for my preview.

See my prediction on Bruce's sacking proved spot on. Amused to watch Hughes chasing the job at what he pointedly referred to as an 'ambitious club,' only to lose out to the mad Celt. What are the cards telling me now? Villa about to go into freefall, McLeish out by January, and Mark moved in. You heard it here first.

Keep the comments coming, life's never dull following the Fulham that's for sure. Europa League progress to knockout round and bottom three in the same week?



Jol wants Berbatov on loan
by DAN on DECEMBER 4, 2011

According to the Sunday People, Martin Jol wants to bring in Dimitar Berbatov on loan from Manchester United.

The Bulgarian striker has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford in the transfer window having struggled for first team football during this campaign, but if a permanent transfer doesn't materialise then Sir Alex Ferguson may consider a short-term loan. The 30 year-old has only managed twelve appearances for United this season, scoring twice, and was disappointing during the Red Devils' surprise Carling Cup exit at the hands of Crystal Palace in midweek.

There would be no shortage of suitors for Berbatov should he be inclined to leave Old Trafford. Rich Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala have already declared their interest in making him the latest big name signing to move east, but Berbatov would reportedly only consider moving to a club in a top European league.

A potential move to Craven Cottage would see Berbatov reunited with Jol, who brought the mercurial Bulgarian to English football when he was in charge at Tottenham back in 2006. The report also links Bobby Zamora with a Fulham exit, suggesting that the recently sacked Sunderland manager Steve Bruce was interested in putting together a £12m deal to take the England international to the Stadium of Light in January. The major sticking point in any Berbatov deal would be the question of the former Bayer Leverkusen forward's £110,000-a-week wages as Fulham would probably only stretch to half of his current pay cheque.

The same paper also reports Fulham's continuing interest in Crystal Palace full-back Nathaniel Clyne, who is out of contract in the summer. Clyne is also being chased by Newcastle, West Brom, Aston Villa and QPR. Jol has also been making enquiries about the Rayo Vallecano left-back Jose Manuel Casado, whose current deal also expires at the end of this season. Casado has been one of the major success stories in La Liga so far this year but Sporting Lisbon, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal would rival Fulham for the 25 year-old's signature.


U18s slip up at Southampton
by DAN on DECEMBER 4, 2011

Fulham's under-18s were beaten 2-0 at Southampton yesterday afternoon. Sam McQueen and Joe Curtis scored the goals that secured an impressive win for the Saints.

The result leaves Fulham in second place in the Academy Group A table, four points behind leaders West Ham with a game in hand.


Match Preview: Liverpool v. Fulham, 12.05.11

Liverpool visit Craven Cottage tomorrow and a Fulham side that's struggled to piece together any sort of positive results domestically, winning only twice thus far on the season. They've got nearly identical records home and away, with their first and only win at home coming in early October. Liverpool's been impressive of late and largely successful away from Anfield, winning six straight in all competitions as the visitors.

The few Monday matches Liverpool plays each season make for long weekends, particularly when everyone we hate does well earlier in the weekend. A run of eight unbeaten in league and eleven overall makes that wait even longer, as I think we'd all prefer to see Liverpool playing as often as possible. As long as, you know, they don't have any season-ending injuries occurring along the way. Drink up.

So maybe it's nice that on the front end of a packed month of December, Liverpool visit a club that's only two points above the drop zone. Or that's terrible news, given the problems Kenny Dalglish's side has had with the sides that they should be taking all three points from. Either way, it hasn't exactly been a smashing return to the Premier League for Martin Jol, who replaced Mark Hughes after an eighth-place finish last season.

It hasn't been quite as bad in the Europa League, where they currently sit second in their group and have a great chance to qualify for the knockout stages, finishing group play with a home against bottom side Odense. And despite the lack of victories, their league form hasn't been entirely awful, with draws against Manchester City and Arsenal accompanying a rampant 6-0 win against QPR and the 2-0 win at Wigan later in October.

Jol likely won't have Damien Duff, who's made seven starts on the campaign so far, but Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey, and Bryan Ruiz should all be back in contention. Liverpool old boys Danny Murphy and John Arne Riise have been mainstays in the midfield and defense respectively, as have goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, defenders Brede Hangeland (who's hopefully having Luis Suarez flashbacks) and Chris Baird, and Dembele, Dempsey, and Bobby Zamora through the midfield and further forward.

For Liverpool:
Who starts for Liverpool?
Johnson Skrtel Agger Enrique
Spearing Adam
Kuyt Henderson Maxi
—LUCAS. Also, Steven Gerrard's latest infection. Jack Robinson's still on crutches or something. LUCAS.
—After a 3/4 overhaul without missing too much against Chelsea in the League Cup, my guess is that Kenny Dalglish goes back to the most effective back line over the past month. That means Glen Johnson right, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger centrally, and Jose Enrique on the left. There's been some talk about shifting to three at the back and trying to fit seven in the midfield to try to accommodate for Lucas' absence, but I doubt there's anything in that talk. Save for Fabio Aurelio actually being fit, it's sort of a nice prospect to have two first-team quality back lines available.

—Elephant in the room: Lucas probably won't play tomorrow. Not worth trying to replace him, because finding a holding midfielder that can walk on water while leading the league in tackles might be hard to do at this point. Jay Spearing's been a frequent topic of conversation (and not just for his looks), and I'd expect him to come into the eleven to partner deeper in midfield with Charlie Adam. I think they'll be joined by Jordan Henderson from a more advanced position somehow, even though there's a slight chance they go it alone as a two-man central pairing that we've seen from Adam and Lucas so far this season.
—I'd like to see the quartet of Luis Suarez, Craig Bellamy, Maxi, and Dirk Kuyt back in action in attack with Henderson alongside Adam, just to see if it was possible for the entire match to take place on a downhill slope. Probably not the case tomorrow, and I think there's a good chance that Bellamy, Maxi, and/or Kuyt could be back on the bench. If we're compromising, I'll say Kuyt-Henderson-Maxi behind Suarez, but it's just as likely that Stewart Downing gets another start. So, right, whatever.
What's the most important factor for the Reds?

For the first time in years, away form isn't the biggest concern for Liverpool, and they're hitting a patch that should see them continue their successes on the road. Obligatory mention about the loss of Lucas, but I don't think there's any reason for the club to approach tomorrow's match too self-conscious about how they continue without the midfielder. The confidence we've seen for most of the season—even in the disappointing draws at home and the loss at Stoke—needs to continue, regardless of who's available.

As it's the only Monday match, TV coverage is easy enough to come by, with Sky Sports 1 televising the match in England and ESPN2/ showing it live in the US. As always, that makes streaming much easier, and we'll have the links for that in the matchday thread. Be sure to let us know if there's any way to watch we've missed, and it'll be included along with the rest of the regular sites. Team sheets will follow after they're released around an hour before kickoff, unless you know someone who knows someone who's in the know, in which case you can stuff it.

Like every other weekday match, it's going to be something worth skipping work for, so we'll see you back here tomorrow.


Fulham - Liverpool Preview: Reds look to continue away run against Martin Jol's side
Kenny Dalglish's side could equal a club record for consecutive wins on the road against a Cottagers outfit who have struggled for victories at home this season

Baird, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise
Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey
Ruiz, Zamora, Dembele

Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique
Henderson, Adam, Spearing, Downing
Suarez, Carroll

The home side may be forced to ring the changes after their midweek exploits against FC Twente in the Europa League.

Knocks to Stephen Kelly and Damien Duff make Chris Baird and Brian Ruiz their likely replacements in a side often full of plenty of attacking intent under Martin Jol.

Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool are in fine form currently but have received a hammer blow with the loss of midfielder Lucas Leiva for the rest of the season.

Jay Spearing must now prove himself an able deputy to the Brazilian, and last year's hat-trick hero Maxi Rodriguez may well miss out despite his strike at Chelsea in the League Cup.

Last year's fixture between these sides at Craven Cottage ended 5-2 to Liverpool with Maxi Rodriguez (pictured right) bagging a hat-trick.

Rodriguez's current goalscoring run sees him with 10 goals in his last eight starts for the Reds.

A Liverpool win would be their seventh consecutive victory on the road in all competitions, equalling a club record.

Fulham have won just one of six Premier League games at Craven Cottage this season.

Kenny Dalglish has lost just 50 times in his overall seven-year spell as Liverpool manager.

If selected, Fulham's Norwegian full-back John Arne Riise will be lining up against his old club for the first time.

The last time Martin Jol faced Liverpool, as Tottenham manager, his side grabbed a 2-2 draw just weeks before his eventual sacking.


Fulham v Liverpool team news, preview & odds

Liverpool head to Fulham on Monday their season on an upward curve following a recent good run of results which has seen them reach the semi final of the Carling cup and on the cusp of the top four.

With four win's from 6 games the Reds have improved significantly on last season's away problems and with a distinct edge over Fulham will hope to keep that form going.

Fulham have managed just three wins in the last 20 meetings between the sides and have failed to score in six of their last 8 games against Liverpool. Martin Jol's side head into this game with just two wins all season, only one of which was at home.

Last weekend however they grabbed a credible draw at the Emirates against Arsenal and Jol will keen for his side to push on from that point.

Team News:

Fulham look set to be without Republic of Ireland winger Damien Duff after he suffered a recurrence of an old calf injury in the Europa League defeat to FC Twente.

Belgian attacker Mousa Dembele, who is a reported target for Kenny Dalglish, should be fit after going off in the same game while and Clint Dempsey and Bryan Ruiz should both return after injury.

Liverpool will be missing key midfield pair Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard.

Much improved Brazilian midfielder Lucas is out after suffering a season-ending cruciate ligament injury in his left knee against Chelsea midweek.

Jay Spearing and Jordan Henderson are battling to partner Charlie Adam in the middle of the field.

Dalglish faces a difficult decision with Jaime Carragher featuring midweek in that Carling cup win, although it is expected that Daniel Agger and Martin Skertel should return after impressing in the veteran defenders absence.

Craig Bellamy is also pushing for a start after his fantastic display against Chelsea while Maxi, who scored a hat trick at Craven Cottage last season, and Stewart Downing are battling for a starting berth on the left.

Fulham (from): Provisional squad: Schwarzer, Etheridge, Baird, Riise, Kelly, Hangeland, Hughes, Dembele, Briggs, Kasami, Duff, Murphy, Gecov, Etuhu, Ruiz, Dempsey, Frei, Johnson, Zamora, Sa.

Liverpool (from): Reina, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique, Henderson, Adam, Spearing, Downing, Kuyt, Suarez, Doni, Kelly, Carragher, Coates, Shelvey, Coady, Rodriguez, Carroll, Bellamy.

Liverpool look good for the win at 5/4 with Betfair, a 2-1 win at 9/1 is our prediction


Fulham target Man Utd discard Berbatov
Jol wants to get Bulgarian on loan move

Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov competes with Kagisho Dikgacoi of Crystal Palace
during their League Cup quarter-final against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. (FILE)

Dimitar Berbatov could be on his way to Fulham next month if Martin Jol has his way.

Jol wants to take the Manchester United striker on a loan move if United boss Sir Alex Ferguson fails to sell him to a big-money buyer, according to 'The People'.

Berbatov's poor display in the 2-1 midweek League Cup defeat by Crystal Palace is likely to push him closer to the exit door at Old Trafford.

The Bulgarian, 30, has started only one Premier League match this season and is behind Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck in the pecking order, with the injured Michael Owen also in the picture.

Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala want Berbatov, but he prefers staying in a major European league.

Jol signed Berbatov for Tottenham in 2006 and the frontman enjoyed the best season of his career working under the Dutchman.

He would love to link up with Berbatov again – especially with Bobby Zamora unsettled at Fulham. Zamora will only be allowed to leave for £12 million.

Jol has been charged with reducing the average age of Fulham's squad, so there is no chance of a permanent Berbatov deal.

Any loan would also need United to pay half of his £110,000 wages each week.


Black Cats boss O'Neill targets AJ with £20m transfer kitty

MARTIN O'NEILL will be handed a £20million January war chest – and Andy Johnson is top of his hitlist.

Former Aston Villa boss O'Neill, 59, swept into the Academy of Light training ground yesterday morning for detailed talks with owner Ellis Short and former chairman Niall Quinn.

And the Ulsterman's formal appointment as new gaffer was confirmed at just after 2pm.


O'Neill, who has been out of the game since quitting Villa 16 months ago, said: "It's a very nice feeling to be back in football and to be the manager of Sunderland.

"It's a big moment for me. I heard what a good club it was but after coming here and seeing the stadium and training ground, I've been bowled over. It's absolutely fantastic."

One of O'Neill's first jobs will be to succeed where axed gaffer Steve Bruce failed – by landing a top-quality striker. And he is expected to move for Fulham hitman Johnson, 30, as soon as the transfer window swings open.

O'Neill watched the Cottagers' clash at Arsenal last Saturday, when AJ came on for the last 15 minutes.

Johnson's contract is up at the end of the season and he will be available for a £1m loan fee in January though the player himself would prefer a permanent move.

O'Neill has always liked experienced midfield players and he could also try to tempt Fulham boss Martin Jol with a bid for 34-year-old Danny Murphy.

O'Neill is clearly the man the Sunderland fans wanted to replace Bruce, who was chopped on Wednesday. And now he has arrived at the club he supported as a boy.

He officially moves into the Black Cats hotseat tomorrow but will be at Molineux today to watch his new side take on Wolves.

O'Neill added: "I hope I can help Sunderland to a very successful period. That's what I've come for – that's my driving ambition."

Short said: "Martin has as good a managerial pedigree as you could wish to find. He is a very astute, top-level manager.

"During his time at Aston Villa he established the club firmly in the top 10 of the Premier League year on year and this is something we are striving to achieve at Sunderland.

"Having spoken with him over the last two days I know he is brimming with enthusiasm and anticipation about the challenge of taking Sunderland forward and I believe he is the perfect choice to deliver the success we all desire."

O'Neill is superb at man-management and the first thing he will do having agreed a three-year contract is to assure the Sunderland players they will all start with a clean sheet.


The Black Cats faithful will hope O'Neill will bring his backroom team of Steve Walford and John Robertson with him. Cockney boy Walford has been with him through thick and thin, although long-time lieutenant Robertson has indicated he would like to call it a day. The Scot has, however, hinted he would be prepared to work as a part-time consultant.

That's why it is not 100 per cent certain that Bruce's No.2 Eric Black will follow his former boss out of the exit door. Like O'Neill, Black – who looks after the team today – has strong Celtic connections and would like to work with the ex-Parkhead chief.


Gignac out of Marseille decider

France strike André-Pierre Gignac will miss Olympique de Marseille's decisive trip to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday after being ruled out for the rest of the year with a thigh injury.

André-Pierre Gignac receives treatment at Caen
©Getty Images

André-Pierre Gignac will miss Olympique de Marseille's decisive UEFA Champions League trip to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday after being ruled out for the rest of the year with a thigh injury.

The 25-year-old striker was a substitute in OM's 2-1 win at SM Caen on Friday but lasted only 13 minutes after suffering what coach Didier Deschamps called "a sharp adductor pain." Scans have confirmed a tear in his left thigh – on which he only underwent surgery in May – ruling the French international out for between four and six weeks.

Marseille lie second in Group F and three points at Dortmund would guarantee a round of 16 place, as would a draw if Olympiacos FC fail to defeat section winners Arsenal FC in Piraeus.