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Tuesday Fulham Stuff (06/03/18)...

Started by WhiteJC, March 06, 2018, 07:15:21 AM

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Kevin McDonald: Fulham silenced the Derby crowd - but we have to win again against Sheffield United

The tackle against Cameron Jerome ensured Fulham left with three points, but the vice captain felt he was just doing his job

Kevin McDonald described his last-ditch tackle against Derby County that ensured all three points went back to Craven Cottage as just 'doing his job'.

The vice-captain's brilliant tackle denied Cameron Jerome in the dying minutes of the game - a tackle that ensured Fulham leapfrogged their opponents into 4th place having come away with a hard-fought victory at Pride Park that made it 13 games ubeaten.

Marcus Bettinelli was also on hand to claw away a last-second attempt, but McDonald was modest about the brilliance of the tackle, saying it's just part and parcel of football.

He said: "Fredericks himself said he switched off and didn't realise the guy was behind, I think everyone thought it was going out but I knew that Jerome had that pace to get there.

"As he went to get it I thought 'they're in here if he cuts this back' and I just made a last ditch challenge, it's one of those things that's part and parcel of football, that's my job at the end of the day and I'm just glad we got the three points."

That result has seen Fulham come through a tough period in their fixture calendar with the scalps of three promotion rivals in Wolves, Aston Villa and Derby - a set of fixtures some were looking at as 'season-defining' for the club.

It's now 10 points from those four games, but with Sheffield United and Preston North End to come it doesn't get any easier.

However, McDonald believes those results have been 'massive' and pinpointed the wins before this set of results as the foundation for the run that Fulham are on.

"It's been massive, and we still have two left from the so-called run of six that we had," he added.

"We've taken ten points from the four games, that;s a great return, there's no denying it, it's been a great run but it doesn't stop there, we have to go again Tuesday and win, it's as simple as that.

"You feel like you're going to get a bit of a rest-bite but you don't and we go Tuesday which will be a really hard game and we've got to get three points again.

"I think it is [season defining], but also the part of it before where we played the so-called lower down teams, we picked up some good points there.

(Image: Mark Kerton/PA Wire)

"There were some tough games and we picked up good points and now we've just continued on that run, we're on that run now and hopefully it doesn't stop anytime soon."

Fulham are no strangers to how difficult going to Pride Park can be - last season the Rams beat them 4-2 in a run where the Cottagers looked unstoppable.

But this time around, McDonald thinks Fulham silenced the Derby crowd and surprised their opponents with the fluid football those that watch the side week-in, week-out enjoy on a regular basis.

He said: "I think it's always one of the best atmospheres in the Championship is coming here, especially when they're ahead, it's tough to play against.

(Image: Paul Burgman)

"But we silenced the crowd a bit and they've been on a bit of a bad run recently so we managed to silence them to a certain extent.

"We put on some fantastic football in the first half, there's no denying it, first touch football throughout the team and I think they were a bit surprised at how fluid we played.
"Second half they changed a bit, it was really hard but it was such a bonus going in at half time at 2-0."


Fulham are firing on all cylinders - and so is midfield dynamo Stefan Johansen

After a slow start to the season, the Norwegian skipper is back to his best at the Cottage - we've taken a look why

Stefan Johansen ended last season in a blaze of glory as one of Fulham's key players.

He was the coal shoveller in the Craven Cottage engine room, linking defence to attack and pretty much running riot through opposition midfields.

But after the disappointment of the Play-offs, Johansen started the season half the player he was towards the end of the previous one, not having the impact on games and, at stages, ghosting through ties.

Nursing an injury didn't help - the Norway skipper was clearly struggling with it during the side's rough patch in October and November and it looked like it was taking a lot longer than anticipated to heal.

There was also the whole 'false nine' phase Slavisa Jokanovic went through, where Johansen was preferred to Rui Fonte and Aboubakar Kamara as the forward option.

That didn't really work, Johansen was clearly uncomfortable in the role and offered next to nothing - he didn't have the pace of Kamara and he didn't have the intelligence of Fonte up top to cause any problems, all the while wanting to drop back in midfield and help muck in defensively.

It was a tough period for the team and a tough period for him, but fast forward to March and Johansen is the player we remember.

(Image: Paul Burgman)

He seems to have shrugged off the injury from earlier on in the season and has got himself back into the engine room and is starting to dominate games once more.

In the past ten or so games, he's nearly been unplayable and looking at his OPTA stats for the season, Johansen has now had:

    Most shots (41)
    Third most goals (six)
    Second most assists (four)
    Most chances created (68)
    Most blocked shots (18)
    Most shots that have hit the wood work (two)
    Highest number of total shots (59)
    Most yellows (nine)

I spoke to Kevin McDonald after the Derby County victory about Johansen, and he agreed that he's picking up form at the moment.

He said: "Yeah Stef's picked up a lot in recent weeks, at the start he was struggling a bit through injury but now hes starting to find form like he was last season.

(Image: Katie Lunn/Evening Gazette)

"He's not scored as many goals yet, but he'll get them as well, at the end of the day if he's getting assists that's all that matters.

"It doesn't matter who scores the goals, so long as we get them and keep clean sheets, that's the main thing."

The fact he seems to have his hand in every pot on the stats list shows that he's becoming the all-rounder we saw last season - the attacking elements speak for themselves in that sense, but I want to address the yellow cards.

He's got nine now, and six of those have come in the past nine games, including an extremely cynical one against Derby where he cut down Casey Palmer as he raced through.

(Image: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Of course, you'll get people that hate the cynical side of the game, but for me, the amount of yellows he's gotten shows he's getting stuck into the game a lot more than he was in the first half of the season.

If McDonald gets beaten, or the ball is passed by him, Johansen has to be the man there as the insurance policy, and that is exactly what he's been doing.

People talk about Tom Cairney, Tim Ream and Ryan Sessegnon being important to the team, and they'd be correct, but when Johansen is firing on all cylinders, Fulham are also on red hot form.


Extra time bonus as Sheffield United prepare to head to Fulham

SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder says that a couple of unnamed players will be handed fitness tests ahead of Tuesday night's trip to high-flying Fulham - although David Brooks, James Wilson and Ricky Holmes will be in his squad.

The weekend postponement of the scheduled home game with Burton Albion has given the trio extra time to concentrate on fitness work ahead of the run-in and they will all travel down to the capital with the Blades' squad for the Craven Cottage fixture.

Wilder, who confirmed that Kieron Freeman will play 90 minutes for the development squad on Monday afternoon, said: "We have got a couple of issues and there will be late fitness tests for a couple of players. "But it has given the likes of David Brooks and James Wilson extra time and Ricky Holmes and they will be travelling. That is the bonus and boost that us not playing at the weekend has given us. "Hopefully, we will only have Paul Coutts missing, which at this stage of the season is great for myself and gives me the opportunity of trying to pick the right team and having a strong group of players to choose from. "I had said all along that we have missed Brooksy who was flying in the period before being taken ill. So to have him back is good for us going into the last 12 games and the reason we brought James and Ricky in was to challenge to play and to have them fit and available is good as well."

Read more at:


Duo hand Sheffield United a huge boost ahead of Fulham clash

James Wilson and David Brooks are back in contention to face Fulham this week, with Chris Wilder welcoming the attacking duo back into his Sheffield United squad.

The Yorkshire Post's Leon Wobschall has been tweeting updates ahead of Sheffield United's trip to Craven Cottage, confirming that Wilder will have both Wilson and Brooks in contention to face Fulham tomorrow evening.

Wilson, who has one goal to his name this season, will boost Wilder's striking options, having not featured since the FA Cup defeat to Leicester City.

Likewise, Brooks hasn't feature since that 1-0 defeat to Leicester, which has been his only appearance since the turn of the year, with the youngster struggling with a host of problems.

The attacking duo will be available to Wilder for this week's clash with Fulham, in what will be a huge clash in the race for the play-offs.

Sheffield United weren't in action over the weekend due to the weather, meaning they enter this week's clash two points adrift of sixth.

Fulham will hand Wilder's side a huge test this week, with Slavisa Jokanovic's side in fine form and pushing for automatic promotion.

The Cottagers picked up three points on Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Derby County.

The Verdict

Things are getting serious in the Championship's promotion race, with Sheffield United well in the hunt for the top-six.

The clash with Fulham will be one of the biggest tests the Blades face between now and the end of the season, and having options like Wilson and Brooks available will please Wilder.

A positive result at Craven Cottage tomorrow evening would be huge for the Blades.


Transfer Talk: Fulham send scout to watch Benfica winger Andrija Zivkovic

Reports suggest that the Whites are scouting the Serbian winger, who has links to Partizan in serbia

Fulham have reportedly sent scouts to watch Benfica winger Andrija Zivkovic.

According to ClubCall , a scout was present at the Stadium of Light on Saturday as Benfica thumped five past Maritimo to watch the Serbian winger.

Zivovic set up Benfica's second goal in the tie and added his third league goal of the season in the 82nd minute, completing the demolition job.

The youngster has been linked numerous times to Arsenal in the past, but the website claim Fulham's interest is new and point to Aleksandar Mitrovic's move to the club as evidence that the club are looking at the former Partizan player.

Andrija Zivkovic is wanted man (Image: FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

Like the Newcastle man, Zivkovic started his career at the Serbian club, where Slavisa Jokanovic spent two seasons in 2008 to 2009, winning the double twice.

However, the head coach has reiterated in recent press conferences that he neither buys nor sells players, with the final decision still resting with the recruitment team of Tony Khan and James Lovell.


Aleksandar Mitrovic admits why he prefers Fulham to Newcastle – a telling admission

Aleksandar Mitrovic has admitted that he prefers playing football for an 'attacking' Fulham opposed to a more 'tactical' Newcastle – suggesting that he isn't keen on the disciplined system Benitez has brought to NUFC over the past two seasons.

The Serbian has been a big hit at Fulham since making his move down south on deadline day, scoring three goals in his last three games to help them up to 4th in the Championship.

He's since admitted just why the 'different style' of football at Fulham is much more enjoyable than what we were playing in our promotion campaign last season, suggesting we were 'too tactical' and didn't play enough attacking football to suit his style of play.

Here's what he's had to say about the two club's approaches to Championship football:

    "It is a different style we play here at Fulham (compared to at Newcastle).
    "The players enjoy the football more than last season (when I was) with Newcastle, where we knew how we wanted to play, we always played on the results, that's it.
    "This season, this (Fulham) team, we always try to score more goals than the opponent.
    "Newcastle was more tactical, we didn't play so much attacking football as we play now.
    "Obviously, it worked because Newcastle were promoted last season, and I hope we are promoted again with Fulham.
    "This is the reason I came here – the style, the players, always attacking, always trying to score one more than your opponents, always with a lot of possession.
    "Last season I really followed Fulham and they were the best team to watch in the Championship – we are continuing like this.
    "I really enjoy it and I want to help my team-mates get promoted this season.
    "We know what to do, we know how to play, we know where we want to be.
    "We know we have 11 games and we will do everything we can, we want to be there (in the Premier League) come the last game."

It sounds like he's fully invested in Fulham and loving every minute of his time at Craven Cottage. One thing that is interesting, however, is that he admits to struggling with Rafa's tactical approach. Perhaps he lacked the discipline to follow the set instructions in such a system?


Marcus Bettinelli: Fulham targeting automatic promotion to the Premier League

Marcus Bettinelli has kept six clean sheets in 15 league appearances for Fulham this season

Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli says the Whites are still aiming to win automatic promotion from the Championship this season.

The west London club are five points behind second-placed Cardiff City in the table, having played a game more than the Bluebirds.

"We know it is going to be tough but that is the way we are thinking," the 25-year-old told BBC Radio London.

"If no-one wants to give us a chance this year to get second, that's fine."

Boss Slavisa Jokanovic guided Watford to automatic promotion to the Premier League in 2015.

And Fulham are unbeaten in 13 matches in the league since losing 1-0 at Sunderland on 16 December, a run which has lifted them from 12th to fourth in the table.

They have beaten leaders Wolves,Cardiff and play-off rivals Aston Villa and Derby during that run, as well as drawing at sixth-placed Bristol City.

"I know it is really tight up there but the boys are full of confidence," Bettinelli added.

"We are excited with the way we are playing and we go into games knowing that if we play our football we will be frightening and score goals.

"We are not going to be silly as we have a lot off teams chasing us as well. We know we are in a good place but it doesn't mean anything."

Fulham host eighth-placed Sheffield United on Tuesday (KO 19:45 GMT), having won their past eight league games at Craven Cottage.


Aleksandar Mitrovic: 'Life at Fulham is better than at Newcastle United'

Fulham loanee Aleksandar Mitrovic has claimed that the Cottagers play more exciting football than parent club Newcastle United.

The Magpies won the Championship title last season after spending much of the campaign in the top two places in the standings, but Fulham have only recently moved themselves into the promotion picture.

Mitrovic has played a key role since moving to West London on a loan deal, and the Serbian international has admitted that he has started to enjoy his football again after rarely being used by Rafael Benitez at St James' Park.

The 23-year-old told the Daily Mail: "It's a different style we play here. The players enjoy the football more than last season with Newcastle, where we knew how we wanted to play, we always played on the results — that's it.

"This season, this team, we always try to score more goals than the opponent. Newcastle was more tactically set up. We didn't play as much attacking football as we play now. Obviously, it worked because Newcastle were promoted last season. I hope we are promoted again with Fulham."


Sheffield United: David Brooks and Kieron Freeman give The Blades as boost as Chris Wilder demands character against Fulham

Sheffield United's players will not be intimidated by Fulham's reputation or recent run of results, manager Chris Wilder has insisted, ahead of tomorrow's meeting between the two clubs at Craven Cottage.

United, who expect Wales international David Brooks to be available for the match, travel to London four places and seven points behind Slaviša Jokanović's side following the postponement of their game with Burton Albion last weekend. Unbeaten in the Championship since December 16, Fulham triumphed 5-4 at Bramall Lane earlier this term but Wilder, again denying he is eyeing a top six finish, said: "Football isn't decided before the game or on form. I'm not looking at the finish line either. All I'm looking at is my team and the next game." Despite his reluctance to admit otherwise, Wilder is determined to guide his team into the end of season play-offs.

Confirming his disappointment that the weather had forced Albion's visit to be rescheduled, he added: "We made a quick decision as a football club. We trained over the weekend. The players were going to have Wednesday off anyway but they have Thursday and Friday too, albeit with a programme to do at home. They came in on Saturday and they were flying."

One positive to come out of the change to United's fixture programme was the extra time it gave Brooks (back), Ricky Holmes (back) and James Wilson (ankle) to recover from the injuries which have hampered their progress in recent weeks. Although Wilder acknowledged other members of his squad were set to be assessed by medical staff before boarding the train south, he used Kieron Freeman's imminent return to fitness to praise the work of United's fitness and conditioning department. Freeman, who has been absent since October after dislocating a knee, is set to start this afternoon's under-23 fixture against Huddersfield Town. "We've got a couple of late tests," Wilder said. "You can ask who they are but all I'll say is a couple of late tests. David Brooks, James Wilson and Ricky Holmes will travel though. "Hopefully the only one we'll have missing, with Kieron playing 90, is Paul Coutts. That's good because it gives me an opportunity to pick the right team."

Read more at:


Why Ryan Sessegnon should stay put at Fulham this summer

Kouassi Ryan Sessegnon made his debut for Fulham barely aged sixteen. The young man from Roehampton has been at Craven Cottage for a decade now already, and this season, he's beginning to make a real name for himself across the footballing world.

In 67 appearances for The Cottagers, Sessegnon has scored a mightily impressive 20 goals; an excellent return, particularly given he's made appearances aplenty playing as a left-back. The England U19 international has spearheaded an outstanding Fulham run since the turn of the year, propelling them into fourth place in the Championship table.

Understandably, these mature displays from the teenager has turned some heads, particularly from Premier League powerhouses. However, I'd urge Sessegnon to remain at Fulham for at least one further year. He's growing, developing and learning the game due to being exposed to regular first-team football. Can Manchester United, Manchester City or Tottenham Hotspur offer him that vital tool? Certainly not immediately, that's for sure.

Obviously, the wage increase is tough to turn down, but if he keeps growing and learning, he'll earn a fortune during a career that could well last for another two decades. There has been so many examples where a young player has taken big-bucks to move away from a club where he was succeeding, I look at Renato Sanches moving from SL Benfica to Bayern Munich, where he struggled. Now, the young Portuguese midfielder is on loan at Swansea City, where confidence is extremely low and he's been exiled from top-level first-team football. That's only going to hurt progression as a player.

The proverbial footballing world is at Sessegnon's feet. This is a player who could, and should, go on to win countless trophies within the English game. He has to time it right though. I look at fellow English players who've made the jump prematurely rather than sticking it out at their current club. Far too many have taken the wrong path when they just weren't ready to move on.

In an ideal world, Fulham will get promoted, giving Sessegnon a chance to play Premier League football for a season. That'll give potential suitors a season to work out whether he's ready for top-level football week-in-week-out, while increasing Fulham's chances at remaining their status as a top-flight side.

It's also down to the club themselves. Sometimes, the financial incentive could be too good to turn down. Let's say United and City get involved in a huge bidding war, bumping the price upwards of £50million, you couldn't blame Fulham for laughing all the way to the bank. Imagine what they could do with that money, it could easily set them up for the next few seasons.

Sessegnon also has to surround himself with the right people. Agents have such a huge say in footballer's futures, and having the correct support-team is arguably just as essential as working hard in training and putting in the effort on the field.

I guess when all is said and done, the decision will be Sessegnon's, and Sessegnon's alone. Personally, I think it makes sense to give Fulham one more season whatever division the London side is playing in next term. They've done a lot for him now it's time for the player to repay that faith.


Fulham v Sheffield United
TUE 06 Mar 2018   Championship
Venue: Craven Cottage

Fulham have won 10 times during a 13-match unbeaten run which has lifted them from 12th to fourth in the Championship

Fulham will assess Tomas Kalas after the centre-back missed Saturday's 2-1 win at Derby because of a hip injury.

Whites boss Slavisa Jokanovic has no other injury worries as he looks to extend his side's 13-match unbeaten run in the Championship.

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder says forwards David Brooks, Ricky Holmes and James Wilson will all travel to the capital after spells on the sidelines.

Midfielder Paul Coutts (broken leg) is a long-term absentee.

SAM's prediction
Home win 55%   Draw 23%   Away win 22%

SAM, the Sports Analytics Machine, is a super-computer built by @ProfIanMcHale of the University of Liverpool.

Match facts

    These sides have not met at Craven Cottage in a league match since August 2006 in the Premier League, when Fulham won 1-0.
    The reverse fixture ended 5-4 to Fulham at Bramall Lane - the first instance of an away side winning 5-4 in a second tier match since August 1966 (Portsmouth 4-5 Birmingham City).
    The Cottagers have won 26 points in 2018 (P10 W8 D2), four more than any other Championship side.
    Sheffield United have kept one clean sheet in 17 away Championship matches this season.
    Fulham forward Ryan Sessegnon has been involved in 12 goals in his last 12 Championship games (10 goals, 2 assists).
    Blades striker Billy Sharp has been involved in five goals in his last four Championship appearances (four goals, one assist).


£22.5m-rated Fulham star v Sheffield United ace: Who would you rather have?

Fulham have won their last eight home league matches and host Sheffield United tomorrow night with designs on making it nine and landing another blow in the promotion race.

It is now 13 league games unbeaten for the Cottagers and their fantastic run of form has taken them into fourth place in the division, after a 2-1 away against Derby on Saturday saw them leapfrog the Rams.

One major factor has been the form of Ryan Sessegnon, who burst onto the scene last season as a promising left-back but has turned into a ruthless winger this term.

He is attracting ever more admiring glances from big hitters across Europe but one of tomorrow night's opposing players has also caught the eye this season.

David Brooks has reportedly been the subject of interest from Tottenham and he goes up against Sessegnon in the latest FLW duel as we look at who has had the better season.

Brooks has had his injury problems so it is no surprise that Sessegnon is ahead in terms of goals, but the fact that the pair are tied in terms of assists is something of a shock.

hey are also evenly matched in terms of dribbles and shots per game. Brooks makes less passes and key passes per game but is much more reliable with his distribution.

In Brooks' injury-enforced absence, Sessegnon's form has been so good that he is now an outside bet for the England World Cup squad but running the numbers shows that the Blades man can compete.

I'd still rather have Sessegnon but an injury-free Brooks has a top future ahead of him as well.


Betts: Incredible Result

Marcus Bettinelli played down his crucial save at the end of Fulham's win at Derby County.

In the fifth minute of stoppage time, home captain Richard Keogh bent a shot towards the far top corner, only for Bettinelli to tip it away to preserve all three points for his side.

But the ever-humble Whites stopper preferred to highlight the impact made by his teammates.

"It was a good save," he admitted. "I think the reason it comes about is an average punch from me which I could do better on.

"I'll take the save, but I think the main thing was Kevin McDonald's clearance [that led to the corner]. Cameron Jerome cut it back, it's gone past me and Kev's there.

"That just shows the desire we have to keep balls out of our goal. He's a central midfielder and he doesn't always get enough credit because the job he does defensively is spectacular.

"A lot of the time it goes unnoticed but that clearance was match-winning. My save was good, but it's got nothing on Kev's clearance, and congratulations to him, he's been absolutely perfect the last few games helping the back four out and he's tremendous on the ball.

"Big Mitro was really, really good up front, he gives us a massive outlet, holds the ball up really well, and he deserved his goal.

"Sess again on the scoresheet, that sums him up. He's a boy with a hell of a future. He's had a busy week picking up two awards, but he goes and bags again so congratulations to him."

Saturday saw Fulham move above Derby in the table to fourth spot, and Bettinelli was delighted with what could prove to be a vital win.

"It's an incredible result," he stated. "We knew how good a side Derby are, their teamsheet screams quality, so we knew it was going to be tough.

"It shows how we've changed as a side as we might have drawn that game earlier in the season, but we stayed resolute, we stayed brave, and it's an incredible result.

"First half we were a real threat going forward, on another day it could have been three or four. But that's us, we're frightening going forward.

"Defensively we've had questions asked of us over the last few years, and lately we've answered all of them.

"We would have liked another clean sheet, that's what we aim for every game, but as long as we keep getting three points, that's the main thing. To come to Derby and take three points in the manner that we did was excellent."

Fulham's unbeaten streak now extends to 13 matches, the last four of which have been against promotion rivals – a spell which yielded 10 points from 12.

"Everyone outside the club probably thought our form would have come to an end maybe at the Villa game, and said we would have died a slow death after that," Bettinelli said. "But that's shown our resilience lately and our determination to win games.

"That's a hell of tough run of games against really good sides who will be up there at the end of the season, but to come away from all of them with positive results is just a credit to ourselves and the management staff.

"It's not just 11 players out there, it's the subs, the physios, everyone around the training ground, and it's a great place to be at the moment.

"We've still got a lot of tough games to come, but we're not going to take our foot off the gas or get carried away. We're a humble bunch of lads, level-headed, and we'll keep working hard and keep pushing for that second place."

Eighth place Sheffield United are next up for the Whites, and Bettinelli is hoping for a more routine match than the 5-4 at Bramall Lane back in November.

"The game away at their place was an absolute rollercoaster, probably one of the best games in the Championship all season," he recalled. "Hopefully we won't need as many goals as we did then, but we know it's going to be tough.

"They're a really good side on a good run of form and they play really attacking football, so it should be a good game but we'll go into it really confident."

Tickets for the Sheffield United match are priced from just £25 adults and £15 juniors. Prices increase by £5 on matchday.


Ex-Fulham man Richard Stearman expects former side to be at top end of Championship

The centre back left the club in the summer to join Sheffield United but he expects Fulham to be right up there

Richard Stearman returns to Fulham with Sheffield United tomorrow evening, and the former Cottager is backing the side to be at the top end of the Championship.

He spent last season on loan at Wolves before leaving the Cottage for Yorkshire having fallen out of favour under Slavisa Jokanovic.

He seems to have found his place at Sheffield United, however, and returns to Fulham tomorrow with confidence they can beat the side, but expects they'll be right up there.

He told Sheffield United's official website : "Fulham are flying really high and are obviously doing really well. I expect them to be right up and about it come the end of the season.

Richard Stearman

"It's going to be a very tough game for us, but one where we have to be confident we can pull off a positive result.

"They've got the financial clout, they had a very good base to begin with but they've managed to add quality players to the ranks this season.

"Look at Reading, being in the play-offs the previous season can cause a hangover, but Fulham have regrouped and performed really well this season, excellently of late."

As with everyone, Stearman has been talking about wonderkid Ryan Sessegnon ahead of the game, and recalled the youngster's first forays in the first team.

He added: "Sessegnon actually made the squad a few times when I was there, I think we had to drag him out of school to be honest.

"He was a talent then, but he's come on leaps and bounds since and he's obviously someone we're going to have to stop on Tuesday.

"Ryan's versatile and can play anywhere down that left-hand side. He came through as a left-back, but he is enjoying himself higher up the pitch at the moment and scoring a lot of goals.

"But they have a lot of quality players you can name, we know it will be a real test and a tough game."


Sheffield United set to face huge test of their credentials imminently

Sheffield United have outperformed all expectations, but this week's game against Fulham is a different test entirely.

Fulham are the in-form team in the Championship with 26 points in their last ten games as well as being unbeaten in their last 13 league games. The last meeting between the two teams was a thrilling 5-4 victory for Fulham back in November.

This will be a key indicator to see whether Chris Wilder has learned from that match as well as whether they can tame such an explosive, free-scoring side. Fulham do have a surge of momentum behind them as well as complete confidence in their abilities which is helping inspire their good form, but the Blades will have to deal with teams of this level of ability if they reach the play-offs.

Fulham will dominate possession with their short passing, expansive possession style, so United will have to be patient due to chances being few and far between. They will also have to be focused because one defensive mistake or lapse of concentration could allow the Cottagers the opening they crave.

Ryan Sessegnon, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Tom Cairney provide a range of threats which they will have to nullify if they want to come away with a result.

Therefore, this game serves as a test of what level they are currently at as well as how their season is likely to end.

A loss in this game would concede the advantage to the other teams around them fighting for the play-off spots such as Bristol City and Middlesbrough. United currently have a game in hand on them both due to their fixture being cancelled at the weekend.

Only four of their remaining 12 games are against sides in the bottom half, so they have plenty of tough matches ahead. A result in this one could give them the confidence to start a run of form.

They need to have some consistency because they have only won three of their last six games. Continuing the season in such a haphazard manner means that they would be at risk of giving points to their rivals in the six-pointers they have remaining against Middlesbrough, Preston and Bristol City.


Odds SLASHED on Ryan Sessegnon being in England World Cup squad - he's more likely than Liverpool and Southampton stars

James Ward-Prowse less favoured for Gareth Southgate's side than Fulham teenager

Could the Championship's hottest property really make England's World Cup squad?

England assistant Steve Holland has been watching the teenage sensation closely in recent weeks, with suggestions that the 17-year-old could be a surprise inclusion in Gareth Southgate's squad for Russia.

There is no doubt that Sessegnon has been in sensational form for Fulham , scoring 14 goals this season, only being outscored in the second tier by Bobby Reid, Matej Vydra and Leon Clarke.

And that's having spent a fair chunk of the season at left-back, too!

Get West London reported last week that Sessegnon was 8/1 to be named in the England squad for Russia with bookmakers Sky Bet - the same odds as Southampton favourite James Ward-Prowse.

But since then, with more and more talk of him going to Russia, those odds have been slashed to 5/1, making him more likely to go to the World Cup than Ward-Prowse now.

Sessegnon has better odds of making it than the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek (6), Jake Livermore (6) and Daniel Sturridge (8), while he is the same odds as Ross Barkley.

Manager Slavisa Jokanovic has backed the flying winger to not just be part of the squad, but be in Southgate's starting line-up too .


81.3% pass success rate, 3 goals: The key to Fulham's promotion push?

Just like last season, Fulham are coming strong at a crucial stage of the season, with Slavisa Jokanovic's side looking well in contention for promotion in the Sky Bet Championship. 

The Cottagers are currently flying, and with 11 fixtures of the season remaining, they are once again finding their best at the business end of the campaign.

The race for promotion is really gathering pace, but Jokanovic's side have picked up six points from key fixtures with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Derby County in their last two outings.

Key to those victories was Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham's on-loan Serbian forward.

Here at FLW, we take a look at the impact of the 23-year-old since his arrival back in the Championship:

Since his arrival at Craven Cottage, Mitrovic has scored three goals in his six appearances under Jokanovic, and is averaging an impressive 3.5 shots per game for his new employers.

Mitrovic is also seeing plenty of the ball in possession too, with the Serbian international completing 20.5 passes on average per game, at a success rate of 81.3%.

Whilst the 23-year-old's impact with the ball is impressive, without it he is also putting in the work, averaging 1.3 tackles per game on top of his attacking contribution.


Fulham man hails match-winning contribution of £3.6m-rated midfielder against Derby

There were no shortage of players who made telling contributions as Fulham landed a major blow in the race for promotion to the Premier League by beating Derby County 2-1 on Saturday afternoon.

For the second league game in succession, it was Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ryan Sessegnon who netted the goals as the Cottagers saw off a high-flying side as the pair put Slavisa Jokanovic's side 2-0 up within 22 minutes.

The second half saw the Whites forced to soak up pressure from the Rams. Goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli made a late sprawling save just after reliable holding midfield player Kevin McDonald had made a goalline clearance in stoppage time.

Bettinelli was keen to point out the contribution of McDonald, even though it might not get as much praise as the goalscorers receive.

Speaking to the club's official website, he said: "It was a good save. I think the reason it comes about is an average punch from me which I could do better on.

"The main thing was Kevin McDonald's clearance. Cameron Jerome cut it back, it's gone past me and Kev's there. That just shows the desire we have to keep balls out of our goal.

"He's a central midfielder and he doesn't always get enough credit because the job he does defensively is spectacular. A lot of the time it goes unnoticed but that clearance was match-winning.

"My save was good, but it's got nothing on Kev's clearance, and congratulations to him, he's been absolutely perfect the last few games helping the back four out and he's tremendous on the ball.

"Big Mitro was really, really good up front, he gives us a massive outlet, holds the ball up really well, and he deserved his goal. Sess again on the scoresheet, that sums him up. He's a boy with a hell of a future.

"He's had a busy week picking up two awards, but he goes and bags again so congratulations to him. It's an incredible result. We knew how good a side Derby are.

"It shows how we've changed as a side. We might have drawn that game earlier in the season, but we stayed resolute, we stayed brave.

"First half we were a real threat going forward, on another day it could have been three or four. That's us, we're frightening going forward. Defensively we've had questions asked of us over the last few years, and lately we've answered all of them."

The Verdict

During the crunch stages of the season, every club needs their players to stand up and be counted.

In what was a massive game, Fulham have four players – Sessegnon, Mitrovic, Bettinelli and McDonald – who have made match-winning contributions to carry on their unbeaten run.

That's why they won't be scared of anyone going into the run-in and it would take a brave backer to bet against them for automatic promotion at this rate.


Café Closure

The Craven Cottage café will be closed this Tuesday and Wednesday, and will reopen on Thursday morning.

Fans will not be able to access the café at any point before or during our match with Sheffield United.

We apologise for any inconvenience.


World Cup 2018: With 100 days to go, should Fulham wonderkid Ryan Sessegnon be in Gareth Southgate's England squad?

Teenager has been in terrific form this season

Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic has backed Ryan Sessegnon for a place in Gareth Southgate's squad for the World Cup in Russia .

The teen sensation has been in terrific form for the Whites this season, scoring 14 goals to propel Fulham into fourth place in the Championship and within sight of the Premier League.

There was much speculation over his future, both last summer and in January, with the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool all reportedly interested in signing him.

Most recently Premier League champions-elect Manchester City have been credited with an interest in the wondered.

And there are some calling for Sessegnon to earn a place on the plane for the Russia World Cup.