16:00 BST, Sunday 26th August, Craven Cottage (London, England)
Having lifted themselves out of the Championship by way of the play-offs, Fulham are yet to hit the heights in the Premier League and are still looking to secure their first point.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side have shown flashes of promise but Fulham’s heavy summer investment has not brought any noticeable returns so far. A weary-legged Burnley side should be their best opportunity yet to open their account though.
Now facing their eighth competitive match of the season, Burnley are another team looking for their first win of the season. With only four goals coming through regular time during these matches, Burnley may be dogged but they seem to be suffering their long-held problem in front of goal.
A lack of goals didn’t prevent a seventh-placed finish last season, however, this season has been packed full of false starts. With Burnley’s one and only Premier League visit to Craven Cottage ending in defeat, Sean Dyche will be hoping to break new ground and put fresh optimism back into their campaign.
Last Time Out
Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Fulham (Premier League)
There were plenty of positives for Jokanovic to take away from Wembley despite seeing his side lose their 1,000th game in England’s top tier.
Both Frank-Andre Zambo Anguissa and Timothy Fosu-Mensah were handed starts for the visitors and both debutantes impressed against Tottenham’s forwards. It took Fulham much of the first half to find their rhythm but Spurs missed a succession of chances before a 43rd minute Lucas Moura strike gave them a narrow lead at half time.
Fulham proved much better after the break and equalised through Aleksandar Mitrovic whose instinctive finish drew the scores level at the second attempt.
Despite Fulham’s improved offerings, Spurs experience eventually told and two quick-fire goals saw the Cottagers head back across London empty-handed and downbeat.
Olympiakos 3-1 Burnley (Europa League Qualification)
Burnley brought back an away goal from the trip to Greece but there was little else to cheer after they fell to defeat with ten men.
Having largely been on the back foot during the first half, Chris Wood won a penalty to send the teams into the break on parity. That was to be the only shot the Clarets managed to put on target during the game although Ashley Barnes was arguably the best player on the pitch.
For all the effort Burnley made during the first half, the Greek side took the lead only three minutes after the break. The header from Andreas Bouchalakis was the only goal which came from open play with Olympiakos scoring firstly through a free-kick and finally from a penalty awarded when Ben Gibson was given a second yellow for hand ball.
Dyche came away from the game aggrieved his side were unfairly treat by the Slovenian referee, however, they aren’t yet out of the competition even if they do face a challenge in the return leg later this week.
Tim Ream (knock) and Alfie Mawson (fitness) are the only key absentees for the Cottagers this weekend which should see an unchanged defence from the side fielded at Wembley last Saturday, although Denis Odoi is available to make his club debut after serving his suspension.
Andre Zambo Anguissa should retain his place in the base of midfield after a solid debut while Andre Schurrle is expected to be drafted back into the right wing position at the expense of Aboubakar Kamara.
Tom Heaton replaced Joe Hart in midweek but the former Manchester City keeper is likely to be restored to the Clarets starting lineup on Sunday.
Outfield, Steven Defour (calf) and Robbie Brady (hamstring) both remain sidelined but Ben Mee, Matt Lowton and Ashley Westwood are all fully rested despite travelling to Greece and could start alongside Matej Vydra who has yet to make his competitive debut for Burnley.
Key Battle: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) vs James Tarkowski (Burnley)
As the most expensive striker signed by a Premier League club this summer, Mitrovic will be the man responsible for leading the Cottagers forward line.
His 12 goals from 17 appearances in the Championship last season earned him a permanent move to the London club but there are still question marks regarding his suitability in England’s top flight.
What Mitrovic lacks in finesse he more than makes up for in physicality but against Burnley he will have a fierce battle on his hands. Dyche has his players primed to but their bodies on the line and Tarkowski is no shrinking violet.
While Mitrovic has a reputation for straying to the wrong side of the fair play line, Burnley’s defenders are as disciplined as they are competitive. Gibson’s two yellow cards on Thursday night was the first Burnley dismissal in 18 months and if Mitrovic is to come out on top in this duel, he too may have to control his frustrations on the pitch.
On the clock
Patience is a virtue not widely extended in today’s Premier League but it is something that is necessary at Craven Cottage. With wholesale changes made to their squad this summer, many of their first team are currently adapting to a new challenge in their respective careers.
Only four of Fulham’s starting lineup against Spurs began their previous match at Wembley just a few short months ago. It’s, therefore, perhaps no surprise that the Cottagers began last weekend’s match looking uneasy amongst themselves as they settle into a new system.
Football remains a results-based business though and pressure will surely mount quickly if their potential remains untapped.
Underestimating the Dyche
If there’s one thing last season taught us, it’s not to expect Burnley to roll over for anyone. They may not have the deepest resources or the most pleasing brand of football but they do have an effective style and a huge amount of motivation.
Without a win in their final five league fixtures of last season and off to a poor start in this, it is easy to write off Burnley’s chances and suggest they are now set for a difficult season. The Europa League has proven a poisoned chalice to Newcastle, Swansea and Hull in recent years but if any manager can find a way to beat the odds, it may just be the gravel-voiced ginger-Mourinho.
Prediction: Fulham 0-1 Burnley
Burnley’s tiredness from their midweek exertions will be balanced by their determination to bounce back and prove their critics wrong which should make this a highly competitive game. For all of Fulham’s promise, they have yet to find an edge to their attacks and Burnley’s well-drilled squad could blunt them further still. 0-1