Fulham will lock horns with newbies Luton Town in the Premier League on Saturday, as both teams look to bounce back from their respective defeats before the international break.
Marco Silva’s side were thrashed 5-1 by champions Manchester City in their last game, while the Hatters’ losing streak continued with a 2-1 home beating at the hands of West Ham. Fulham are yet to win at home this season and have conceded 10 goals so far, which will offer Luton some encouragement of getting their first points on board.
With the two teams set to thrash it out for supremacy at Craven Cottage, here are the key battles to watch out for.
#Joao Palhinha vs Ross Barkley
Fulham lost Tom Cairney to injury after just 16 minutes against Man City at the Etihad, and the captain’s knee problem means he is doubtful for this game, and the same can be said for fellow midfielder Sasa Lukic. With summer signing Alex Iwobi also nursing a thigh issue, Marco Silva’s options in midfield seem depleted, but the Fulham boss may welcome Joao Palhinha back to the fold with open arms.
Palhinha unsurprisingly sat out the Man City loss after his dream move to Bayern Munich collapsed at the 11th hour of the deadline day. However, with the Portuguese staying at the club, at least for the next four months, he could be the difference between safety and struggle. Combative and a leader in midfield, his potential return to the team will provide some much-needed protection to Fulham’s defence that has already conceded 10 goals.
Luton will look to exploit Fulham’s frailties at the back, with Ross Barkley looking to find spaces from an advanced role in midfield. The ex-England international has the final pass in his locker and can create something out of nothing, so Palhinha could be tasked to keep a close watch on him.
#Carlton Morris vs Fulham centre-backs
Having arrived from Barnsley last summer, Carlton Morris played a significant role in Luton’s promotion to the Premier League via the Championship play-offs, scoring 20 goals in 44 league games. Unsurprisingly, the striker has been the brightest spark in the opening three games for the Hatters, bagging a goal and an assist to get his Premier League career off to a decent start.
Given Fulham’s defensive woes are pretty evident, Luton will no doubt look to take the game to the hosts from the very beginning, with Morris leading the charge from the front. Tim Ream and Issa Diop—the Cottagers’ first-choice centre-back pairing, haven’t started the season well and must significantly improve if they are to keep the Morris-led Luton attack at bay at Craven Cottage.
#Harry Wilson vs Ryan Giles
Harry Wilson has made the right wing his own with some fine performances, and the Wales international is expected to keep his place in the team against Luton. Cutting in from the right, Wilson possesses the quality to score screamers and create a goal from his sweet left foot.
Attacking wing-back Ryan Giles is expected to line up against Wilson on Saturday. Pacey and agile, the 23-year-old is not easily beaten in 1v1 situations, although he struggled to cope with West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen before the international break. Regardless, the match-up between Giles and Wilson promises to be an exciting watch.