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Fulham at Liverpool 17-12-10 - Match Preview

last updated Friday 17th December 2010, 5:07 PM
Fulham manager Mark Hughes
Fulham manager Mark Hughes
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Roy Hodgson faces his old club for the first time as former employers Fulham travel to Anfield to face Liverpool in Saturday's evening kick-off.

The LMA manager of the year for 2010 swapped West London for Merseyside in the summer after a wonderful spell with the Cottagers gave him his biggest opportunity in management in a 35-year career that saw him travel around much of Europe.

The 63-year-old enjoyed probably his greatest season last term, guiding his unfancied Fulham side all the way to the final of the Europa League, where Diego Forlan broke their hearts in extra time to give Atletico Madrid a 2-1 victory.

Coupled with a mid-table finish, Hodgson became an in-demand figure, with England rumoured to be interested in his services following the World Cup.

However it was Liverpool who secured him, hoping that he would steady what was becoming a very unstable ship and bring back some good organisation to the team.

Liverpool boss Roy HodgsonWhat has materialised in the first half-season of his reign has been inconsistent to say the least, despite the club resolving most of the boardroom issues that disrupted the early months of the campaign.

Having improved from their dismal early-season form, their performance against Newcastle in the 3-1 defeat at St James' Park was abject, with Hodgson admitting that their away form was "unacceptable."

They have improved at home but Hodgson is under severe pressure from not only supporters and now it appears the club's new owners to start delivering. Mark Hughes has not quite stamped his mark on Fulham since joining in the summer and needs to start securing results before his team become embroiled in a relegation fight.

The side is much the same as Hodgson's, but injuries to key figures such as Bobby Zamora have not allowed him to field a consistent starting XI.

Fulham are just outside the relegation zone on goal difference in 17th place, but victory at Anfield could lift them to 15th depending on results elsewhere, and just three points behind their opponents.

Danny Murphy for Fulham and Paul Konchesky for the Reds are both set to face their former clubs, but defeat for Liverpool would severely crank up the pressure on Hodgson, who has not proved as popular at Anfield as he did at his former employers.

Liverpool have been handed a major boost ahead of the game with the news that skipper Steven Gerrard is set to return from the hamstring injury that has kept him out for the past month.

The talismanic midfielder was injured while on international duty for England in November, but could give his side a huge lift by making the starting line-up, despite Hodgson's caution over throwing him in with a busy festive period approaching.

Hodgson made wholesale changes for the golless draw against Utrecht on Wednesday in the Eurpa League, leaving star striker Fernando Torres on the bench, but he is likely to field a team similar to the one that lost at Newcastle.

Joe Cole could also be in line to start his first game since getting injured against Bolton in October, but his out-of-sorts performance against the Dutch side in midweek may see him consigned to the bench.

Fulham will still be without Belgian star Moussa Dembele due to an ankle problem, while Matthew Briggs (ankle) remains out until next month.

Zamora has handed his side a boost with the news that he is making a good recovery after breaking his leg, but a return is still some way off, as is Philippe Senderos, who is out with an Achilles injury.

Hughes has no further injury worries however, so is likely to stick with a similar team that drew 0-0 with Sunderland at Craven Cottage last week.

The Whites have failed to score in seven of their nine Premier League visits to Anfield, including the last four.

Fernando Torres has hit 44 goals in 48 Premier League appearances at Anfield.

Four of the nine Premier League games at Anfield between these two sides have ended as goalless draws, including the last two

Source Mike Barton at SkySports
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