Fulham vs. Manchester United: Complete Premier League Preview, Team News

Max TowleAnalyst IJanuary 31, 2013

Fulham vs. Manchester United: Complete Premier League Preview, Team News

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    Premier League: Fulham vs. Manchester United, Craven Cottage (February 2, 12:30 p.m. ET)

    Manchester United travel to West London this Saturday to take on a Fulham side buoyed by a valuable midweek win over West Ham United.

    The Red Devils currently sit seven points clear of Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League table, a lead fans of both teams struggle to see overcome.

    Claiming three points against the Cottagers should be no easy task for Sir Alex Ferguson's side, though, despite their 4-1 home win in an FA Cup meeting between the two last weekend.

    Here's a rundown on the upcoming fixture complete with team news, key players and projected lineups.

Form Guide

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    Fulham: DWLLW

    Manchester United: WWDWW

    Fulham have been in patchy form of late, and are perhaps one of the least predictable teams currently playing in the Premier League.

    Recent disappointing home draws against Blackpool in the FA Cup and Wigan were followed by defeats at both Manchester clubs.

    But the Cottagers' performance in their 3-1 win over West Ham was a massive improvement as former red Dimitar Berbatov and Hugo Rodallega etched their names onto the scoresheet.

    Manchester United enter the game in blistering form having last tasted defeat in early December of last year.

    Though the Red Devils were given the run around in the second half of their 2-1 midweek win over Southampton, they've been playing some quality football in the early stages of 2013.

    The biggest issue for Sir Alex's team has been lapses in concentration at key moments in games.

    Tottenham Hotspur were able to capitalise on this increasing trend last month, grabbing a late equaliser to deny United three points at White Hart Lane.

Injuries and Suspensions

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    Simon Davies: knee injury (doubtful)

    Mahamadou Diarra: knee injury (unavailable)

    Kerim Frei: groin injury (unavailable)

    Kieran Richardson: calf injury (doubtful)

    Manchester United

    Jonny Evans: hamstring injury (doubtful)

    Darren Fletcher: illness (unavailable)

    Ashley Young: knee injury (doubtful)

    (All info via Fantasy Football Scout).

Key Players

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    Fulham: Dimitar Berbatov

    Since making the cut-price move from Manchester to West London this summer, Dimitar Berbatov has quickly become the lynchpin of the Fulham attack.

    The hub of all that is creative, Berbatov has scored eight goals in 20 appearances this season, as well as racking up three assists to his name.

    The Bulgarian forward is one of the best footballers on the planet in holding the ball with his back to goal, while also possessing surprisingly devastating passing skills.

    Though United will be plenty familiar with his style of football, stopping him will still be a difficult proposition.

    Manchester United: Robin van Persie

    Another summer signing, Robin van Persie has set Manchester alight with his phenomenal performances for the Red Devils this term.

    The Dutch hit man has struck 21 times in only 28 appearances for United and currently leads the Premier League scoring charts for his efforts.

    It almost came as a shock to see him fail to hit the back of the net against Southampton, but the Cottagers should by no means take that as evidence of a drop in form.

    He scored one of the goals of the season the last time these two teams met at Old Trafford—his first for Sir Alex's side.

Facts, Facts, Facts

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    The Cottagers' Giorgos Karagounis currently leads his team with a pass completion percentage of 91.6.

    On average, Martin Jol's side have been caught offside the fewest times per game (1.5).

    Fulham are the only team in the Premier League yet to have a player be given a yellow card for simulation.

    Fulham currently lead the Premier League as the team with the highest average of interceptions per game (20).

    Manchester United

    Robin van Persie has scored 10 goals in his last 11 Premier League appearances, while Wayne Rooney has netted nine times in his last nine games.

    Manchester United are currently enjoying their best Premier League season to date, points-wise. They've collected 62 points from only 25 games.

    The Red Devils are yet to have a player sent off this season.

    Sir Alex's side have the second-highest pass completion percentage in Britain's top league (86.1). Only Arsenal better them in that category.

    (All stats via WhoScored.com).

Projected Lineups

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    Fulham: Mark Schwarzer, Sascha Riether, Philippe Senderos, Brede Hangeland, Matthew Briggs, Damien Duff, Steve Sidwell, Giorgos Karagounis, Hugo Rodallega, Bryan Ruiz, Dimitar Berbatov.

    Manchester United: David de Gea, Rafael, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Antonio Valencia, Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Luis Nani, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie.

    Fulham boss Martin Jol is likely to keep faith in the same starting XI that trumped West Ham in the week.

    This would more than likely see defender Aaron Hughes omitted once again, scorer of Fulham's consolation goal the last time these two teams met.

    Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov will lead the line, backed up by the versatile Colombian Hugo Rodallega.

    Predicting a Sir Alex Ferguson lineup is never an easy task, but chances are young midfielder Tom Cleverley could earn a recall to the XI.

    Despite the storm of controversy surrounding David de Gea's recent performances, he will probably keep his place between the sticks over backup Anders Lindegaard.

    Having faded during the second half after an excellent first against Southampton, Shinji Kagawa could miss out in place of Portuguese winger Nani.

    What is your prediction for the game? Who might start for either side?