Whites chart stormy passage

Posted by Phil Mison

Dimitar BerbatovPA PhotosDimitar Berbatov has been told he can leave Fulham.

The UK didn’t get swamped by the big storm and tidal surge that swept down the North Sea to put the Hamburg quayside under six feet of water. But Fulham must feel like the levee has indeed broken with nothing but bad news coming out of the Cottage in the last 48 hours.

Brede Hangeland’s sciatic nerve issue has not responded to treatment and our skipper now faces six weeks out after going under the knife. This during the most intensive spell of games in the season. Now the club have told Dimitar Berbatov he’s free to leave in January.

Xo bare is the striker cupboard at the club thanks to Martin Jol’s short termism, new boss Rene Meulensteen has little option but to stick with the Bulgarian -- who clearly has no stomach for a relegation fight -- up front for the rest of the month. Should Berba get crocked or pick up a suspension in the coming weeks, Fulham will be down to the bare bones.

For Sunday’s game with Aston Villa, Darren Bent may not appear against his parent club, Hugo Rodallega is still sidelined and there’s no word on the fitness of young Moussa Dembele. Fulham chose not to host a press conference this week following the defeat to Spurs so hard news is thin on the ground.

What we do know of course is that the club have lost six in a row and won just ONE of the last eleven home games at Craven Cottage. After Saturday’s results they have now slipped a further place in the standings to sit second from bottom. With upcoming games against Everton and Manchester City, there is every likelihood of the Cottagers being bottom before meeting Norwich on Boxing Day.

Can things get any worse? Well yes, should the Cottagers fail to take anything from Sunday’s game. An excellent away win at Southampton in mid-week has propelled Aston Villa into the top half of the table, and their improved form has come even while the goals have dried up for Christian Benteke.

Meulensteen made no fewer than seven changes for the Spurs game on Wednesday night. I expect only a couple for this one –- but whatever the selection, the Whites will need to be mentally strong, meticulously organised and capable of scoring more than one. A draw may well be the limit of our ambition. And with such a ramshackle squad left behind by Jol’s appalling management, should Dimi decide to sulk his way through the 90 minutes, it’s very hard to see how Fulham might fashion a win.

Heaven knows we need one. Recent encounters with the Villains have been tight affairs, but right now every club in the league must fancy playing us. I shall be chewing my nails in the posh seats of the Riverside stand for once as I am hosting one of our star North American fans who has made the long trip all the way over from North Carolina to watch her beloved team.

It’s in the hands of the players to seal a memorable trip over for someone prepared to make such a sacrifice. Your blogger has done his bit with a West End show and a Saturday night with the UK’s number one Led Zeppelin tribute band. Let’s pray Fulham against the odds can deliver and make it a Sunday to remember for all who follow the club.

-- Villa have only lost one of their last nine Premier League away matches (W4, D4, L1). Their record of just three away defeats in 2013 is bettered only by Manchester United (two).

-- Paul Lambert's side are on a five-match unbeaten run (W2, D3), keeping three clean sheets in the process.

-- They are the only Premier League side yet to drop any points from a winning position.

Fulham took four points off Aston Villa last season, winning 1-0 at the Cottage thanks to an 84th minute strike from Chris Baird. Can we have a repeat of that please?




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