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Fulham v Blackburn Rovers - Match Preview

last updated Tuesday 10th March 2009, 8:17 PM
Fulham could name an unchanged side for their Barclays Premier League match against Blackburn.

Despite a heavy fixture pile-up in recent weeks, boss Roy Hodgson has no serious injury concerns, although Chris Baird is still battling a minor leg problem.

Giles Barnes is continuing to build match fitness in the reserves but may not be ready for action against Rovers.

Roy Hodgson believes his chances of taking Fulham to the next level depend as much on decisions in the boardroom as progress on the training pitch.

Team Fulham Blackburn
Games Played 26 26
Goal Attempts
Goals 24 30
Ave Goals per game 0.92 1.15
Shots (excl blocked shots) 249 246
% Shots on Target 40% 43%
% Goals to Shots 10% 12%
Short Passes 9,354 7,887
Long Passes 1,588 1,563
Overall Pass Completion % 76% 72%
Total Crosses 544 588
Cross Completion % 23% 23%
Goals Conceded 22 43
Ave goals conceded per game 0.85 1.65
Tackles 586 565
Tackles Won % 72% 76%
Blocks, Clearances & Interceptions 1656 1653
Fouls 317 393
Yellow Cards 24 55
Red Cards 1 3
opta Stats

Hodgson oversaw a remarkable fight against relegation last season, culminating in safety on the final day of the campaign, and he has already set about transforming his side from perennial relegation candidates into a fixture in the top half of the table.

The Cottagers go into the match against Hodgson's former club in 10th but, despite his insistence that mathematical safety remains top priority, could realistically be eyeing as high a finish as seventh.

Hodgson, though, is working with a threadbare senior squad and acknowledges the club would need to add significant depth if contention for European places is to become the norm.

Asked if he had a clear vision of where he wants to take Fulham in the next few years, Hodgson said: 'That is not just a question for me, but also for the chief executive of the club and the owner Mohamed Al Fayed.

'It is up to them to decide. If things go okay this season and we do achieve our goal of stabilising the club and being less relegation prone - which I said was the aim from day one - then we are looking better and it will be up to the chairman to decide where he wants to take the club.

'There is no doubt that to take the club to the next step, it won't be purely down to the coaching and the preparation we try and do, it will also be down to recruitment - what players we can bring in to strengthen what is a very fragile squad.

Sam Allardyce will assess the fitness of goalkeepers Paul Robinson and Jason Brown.

Robinson missed the 0-0 draw with Everton last week with a shoulder problem while Brown picked up a groin injury in the game at Ewood Park.

Roque Santa Cruz (knee) is a major doubt while David Dunn and Vincent Grella are both ruled out, but Morten Gamst Pedersen returns from suspension.

Allardyce has called on his side to be more ruthless in front of goal as they continue their fight against the drop.

Rovers have lost just twice in the last 10 league games but remain in the relegation zone after three wins in that sequence and, perhaps more tellingly, three goalless draws.

With nobody else playing in midweek, the game in hand gives Rovers a golden opportunity to move out of the bottom three.

But Allardyce knows his players can no longer afford to spurn the chances that come their way.

'There's good character, there's good spirit, but they've just got to get that end product that little bit better and be a little more ruthless in front of goal,'' he said.

'We've been working extremely hard on the defensive side so as not to be easy to score against and in the main that has been very good.

'Up to now we've been very close in terms of our overall play of just playing our way out of it, but we miss that end product.

'We weren't conceding goals any more but we couldn't find the one goal which was going to get us the all-important three points, so we ended up drawing five and winning three instead of winning at least five and only drawing three.''

Allardyce feels Roy Hodgson's side may be there for the taking after a bad week at Craven Cottage in which they were beaten at the death by Hull and hammered in the FA Cup by Manchester United.

'This is our game in hand, if we come away with a point it takes us out of the bottom three,'' he said.

'The win would obviously be great because it stretches that points difference that little bit farther and we'd maximise that game in hand. But if we can't win it, make sure we don't lose it.

'You have to look at recent form and results and say they have had a little blip. We could be playing them at a good time, mentally they might be a little drained because of their last two games.

'Hopefully it has left some physical and mental fatigue which we may be able to take advantage of on Wednesday night. But the last thing Roy and his players will want is to lose three home games on the trot.''

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