It is hard to see anything but a Liverpool win at Fulham this weekend, but do the home side sense a major upset coming at Craven Cottage?
It has been a solid week for the Reds, who dismantled Wolves in the Premier League, before a much-changed team drew 1-1 away to Midtjylland in the Champions League.
Jurgen Klopp‘s men appear to be finding their groove as the festive period kicks in, suggesting they are set for a positive run of results.
Up next is Sunday’s trip to a Fulham team languishing in the 17th place, with just seven points to their name in 11 matches.
The Cottagers beat Leicester away recently, however, so Liverpool must not take their struggling opponents lightly in west London.
With kickoff on the horizon, we spoke to Fulham fan and football writer Matt Baldwin (@MattRhys63) to get his thoughts on both sides’ seasons so far and how Sunday’s clash could pan out.
How would you assess Fulham’s start to the campaign?
It’s really been a season of two halves.
Fulham came out of the blocks and looked completely unprepared for what was ahead of us, which in a sense we were, because of the short turnaround time from the playoff final to the start of the season.
We didn’t have a true pre-season to get things clicking, so the first few games became that, as we worked out how we needed to set up.
Now we have had that time, things have been looking a whole lot better.
Do you fancy the Cottagers to beat the drop?
After the first few games, no. But looking at how we have set up, and at the teams down the bottom, we may stay up by default of being the fourth-worst team.
There are some real strugglers down there at the moment, such as Sheffield United and West Brom.
If it has to be that way, rather than us pulling up any trees and being impressive, then so be it.
Who have been Fulham’s three best players so far this season?
Despite the amount of goals we have conceded, I would have to say Alphonse Areola has been incredible between the sticks.
There was some controversy when he came in and took the place from Marek Rodak, who had got us promoted, but over time it has proved to be a really smart choice.
Ademola Lookman has given us a bit of a spark when it comes to our attack, creating some good chances and scoring some fine goals.
That penalty miss will probably hang over him all season, but he has responded to it really well and even before then he was the only player that seemed to give a damn and put in any effort.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa has been an incredible force of nature in the midfield, and based on how he has played the past few weeks, he wouldn’t look uncomfortable in a top-six side.
He was one of our many ‘flops’ last time around in the Premier League, but he has done well to answer his critics from last time.
How does it feel to have fans back inside Craven Cottage this weekend?
It’s going to be weird because I think our style of play can be frustrating to watch at times, and the players haven’t had to put up with fans being in a position to tell them how they feel for some time.
If the players make a mistake now, there isn’t going to be anywhere to hide, but hopefully that doesn’t turn out to be the case and the players can be spurred on.
Switching our attention to Liverpool, do you still see them as title favourites?
Not anymore. I think injuries are going to take their toll.
We saw at the start of Jurgen Klopp‘s time at the club players got muscle injuries as they adjusted to his style of play.
They were lucky they didn’t have many in the past two seasons to hold them back, but now that he is asking them to do it during a truncated and hectic schedule, something has got to give.
I don’t think they will be able to keep up the whole way.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s game, who do you fear most from the Reds?
It will be the obvious answer but it’s the front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino – or four if you include Diogo Jota in there as well.
Our back-line has really stepped up these past few games, but we saw against Man City that there is a limit to how well we can keep attacks at bay.
With Liverpool’s attack, it is going to be a difficult task to keep us in the game.
Where do you see the key battles taking place?
In central midfield, we need to do our best to stop the supply line to the front three, whether that is keeping the ball ourselves or trying to get it back from the likes of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and company.
If we can keep their time on the ball to a minimum, we might stand a chance.
Finally, hit us with your prediction…
For some inexplicable reason, I think we might be able to get a 1-1 draw out of this.
Despite my praise of Liverpool, I think there are some weaknesses to be exploited, and the longer Areola and the defence can keep us in the game, the better chance we have of getting something.