Many Fulham fans would love to forget about the opening weekend to the 2008-2009 EPL season. While they came out strong with an early lead at KC Stadium, the "80th Minute Curse" from last season reared its ugly head again, as they eventually lost to new boys Hull City.
Sadly, things aren't going to get much better for the Cottagers this weekend, as Fulham welcome Arsenal FC to Craven Cottage.
This will be Fulham's home opener, so the Whites will be looking forward to the helpful support of their local fans. Last season, Craven Cottage was always a flurry of support—it seemed all of Hammersmith and Fulham was behind the team.
Both teams are going into the game with some key injuries, even this early in the season. Those injuries could be deciding factors for either side.
Fulham will be missing Andy Johnson, who has yet to play for the club since finalizing his move from Everton a few weeks ago. A knock he suffered in the summer is still nagging him, so Fulham manager Roy Hodgson is being cautious and protective of his investment.
Also missing from the home team will be Finnish goalkeeper, Antti Niemi and usual centre back starter, Aaron Hughes.
Arsenal, however, are missing players as well. Cesc Fabregas has an injured hamstring, as does Senderos. Also missing from the squad are Diaby, Eduardo, and Rosicky.
Fulham will have the tougher game, there is no doubt about that. Hopefully they can put aside some atrocious defending last week and stop Arsenal's passing game. They will need better performances from almost the entire squad.
Jimmy Bullard and Danny Murphy will need to control the midfield the best they can, and make quick accurate passes to Bobby Zamora and whoever else Hodgson puts up front.
Having said that, I expect Zamora to be the lone striker as Fulham will probably go with a defensively minded 4-5-1. A tie is not out of their reach.
Arsenal just need to do what they do best. Samir Nasri had a great EPL opener last weekend, and will be looking to build on his form with Arsenal. He will be the key player to watch, as will forwards Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin Van Persie.
The Gunners will most likely feel they are going into an easy game, and not be too concerned about injuries, due to their depth of the rest of their squad.
All in all, I am expecting Roy Hodgson and Fulham to play with some heart in front of the home crowd. Unfortunately, that might not be enough to stop the offensive firepower of Arsenal. Strong defensive play and maybe some luck could get the Cottagers a win at home, but a loss is far more likely.
Though with Arsenal playing a European Champions League match midweek, Arsene Wenger may field a slightly weaker squad giving Fulham the possibility to snatch a point.
My Prediction: Fulham 1 - Arsenal 2, with the 80th minute being the Cottager's bane once again.
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