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Liverpool v Fulham preview

last updated Friday 17th December 2010, 10:00 AM

If Roy Hodgson has endured a nightmare start to life at Anfield, the visit of his former club on Saturday will at least provider a reminder of the reasons for his LMA Manager of the Year award in May.

Fulham, Europa League finalists last season and ensconced comfortably in mid-table, currently sit outside the relegation zone on goal difference alone. Injuries to Bobby Zamora and Moussa Dembele have done little to aid Mark Hughes but, in contrast to his predecessor's time at Craven Cottage, there seems little cohesion about the team.

Hughes appears to have settled on long-ball tactics but, without a target man or a striker of real pace, that approach appears aimless. Where Hodgson was bringing the best out of those players, the squad now looks suited to a battle for survival.

Unfortunately for Hodgson, his methods have not yet borne fruit at Liverpool. Expectations have been raised now he is working with a higher class of player but, early in his stay, he remarked that the supposed world-class talents at Anfield had done little to prove their superiority over his former charges.

Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres have shown flashes of their quality, and there have been convincing victories over Chelsea, West Ham and Aston Villa, but the supporters - and perhaps some of the players - have yet to be persuaded of Hodgson's ability to drive the club forwards.

The disjointed performance in the 0-0 draw with FC Utrecht on Wednesday did little to advance the fringe players' claims and, amid suggestions spending will be limited in January, Hodgson must persist in his attempts to coax performances from his key players.

Rumours of a sacking or resignation persist, and Hodgson will need to increase the pressure on his Fulham successor if he is to alleviate his own worries.

Liverpool player to watch: Fernando Torres. Having initially indicated that Torres would face Utrecht, Hodgson apologised for leaving his star striker on the bench after consulting with his medical staff. The idea had been to give Torres 45 minutes to score a couple of goals and build up his confidence, Hodgson explained, but the hope now will be that he is fresh enough to make the breakthrough against Fulham.

Fulham player to watch: Diomansy Kamara. Clint Dempsey may have been the most consistent attacking player for Fulham this season, but Kamara may be the key figure at Anfield. His underwhelming displays far outweigh his most potent performances but he is a livewire and, on his day, he can be unplayable.

Key Battle: Dirk Kuyt v Carlos Salcido. Mexico left-back Salcido was rumoured to be a target for Liverpool in the summer, and while many fans have been unhappy with the purchase of Paul Konchesky for Fulham, it appears the Reds may have secured the better deal. Committed to the attack, Salcido has regularly made a succession of defensive errors during his time in England and tends to leave acres of space in behind, leaving the consistently impressive Brede Hangeland to cover. If Kuyt - the scorer of Liverpool's goal in the 3-1 defeat to Newcastle last week - plays up on the right, he may well profit from his generous opponent.

Trivia: Like Hughes, Hodgson endured a slow start to life at Fulham. In his first 13 games after taking charge midway through the 2007-08 season, he took just nine points, but he secured four wins from the final five games of the season to steer the club from relegation. After 17 league games this season, Mark Hughes has taken 16 points, with two wins and ten draws.

Stats: Fulham have scored just six goals in eight away games in the Premier League this season, drawing five and losing three. Liverpool have won five and lost just one of their eight home games in the league, scoring 15 goals.

Odds: Liverpool (1.57), the draw (3.75) and Fulham (6.50) are all on offer with bet365, while a Torres goal in a 1-0 Liverpool win will give you odds of 11.00.

Prediction: Liverpool have a strong record at home this season while Fulham have been consistently poor on the road for a very long time.

Source soccernet
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