Injuries to the midfield have dominated our build up to this weekendâ€™s visit to Craven Cottage. The absence of Lennon, Bentley, Jenas and Huddlestone means that weâ€™re running out of options in the middle with Modric, Kranjcar and Palacios the only recognised first team midfielders available. So Harry will get to earn his money as he decides whether to chuck in a youngster (unlikely given his record in this area) or play someone out of position. The return to fitness of Assou-Ekotto means that moving Bale forward and Modric inside is probably the most likely option and essentially solving the defensive midfield problem by creating more attacking options fits in well with Redknappâ€™s general philosophy this season. Heâ€™s deliberately played in an open attacking style, assuming thatÂ weâ€™ll cause enough problems at the front to outweigh any lack of physical presence further back.
Whatever the manager decides to do, much responsibility will fall on the round shoulders of Wilson Palacios but heâ€™s a man not known for shirking challenges, as his eight bookings (according to the FA website) thus far show. The ever popular Mark Clattenburg is the man who Wilson will be urging to keep his cards in his pocket on Saturday evening.
Away from the recovery ward, the resurgent Pavlyuchenko will start up front, presumably along with Defoe. The way Peter Crouch took his goals for England on Wednesday may make Harry ponder other options, I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s the different service he gets playing for his country but I donâ€™t ever remember him coming on to crosses like that for us and if he did, he certainly didnâ€™t deal with them so emphatically.
At the back we as usual wonâ€™t find out about Ledleyâ€™s state until late on but Bassong and Dawson have proved more than reliable if he doesnâ€™t make it and their performance against Bobby Zamora will be crucial. Bale was holding an ice pack against his knee after he was subbed by Wales the other night but Iâ€™ve seen no news that itâ€™s a serious problem.
Disrupting their shape and stopping the service to Zamora will be high up in our priorities defensively though Fulham have plenty of other skilful options in Duff, Gera and Murphy to name but three. Theyâ€™ll be confident too seeing as how theyâ€™re on an eight game unbeaten run.
Even though the chocolate brown kit 4-0 win in 2007 is still relatively fresh in the memory the overriding impression of trips to Fulham is a clichÃ©d one of dour hard fought encounters where we struggle on a muddy pitch and the chances are that this game will be no different. At the back of Harryâ€™s mind will be that itâ€™s not winner takes all in this game and that the odds would be stacked so much more in our favour if we were at White Hart Lane. The first goal will be so important. The league table shows that weâ€™re the better team & if we can get the passing going and not make mistakes at the back, a place in the draw for the semi finals should be ours.
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