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Fulham v Sheff Utd - Match Preview

last updated Saturday 03rd February 2001, 11:56 AM
Ladbrokes may have awarded Fulham the championship with their decision to pay out prematurely but Cottagers' chief Jean Tigana is far too professional to allow his players to slacken off yet.

A man whose attention to detail has involved sorting out his players' teeth and having a hill specially constructed to improve their stamina is far too single-minded to settle for any slipshod ways creeping in to the squad.

But Sunday's visit of Sheffield United will provide a useful insight into the mental state of the champions elect, who shrugged off last week's 1-0 home defeat by Birmingham to win their derby at QPR on Wednesday.

The Blades, who are not allowed to field on-loan Cottager Paul Peschsolido and are definitely without the suspended Robert Ullathorne, are not a team to be trifled with, but it is hard to summon many reasons why they should cause a shock here, given they possess such a poor away record for a team in the top half of the table.

Beaten by Tranmere, Watford and West Brom on their last three league starts, they have been scrambling for the signature of Birmingham's Peter Ndlovu to boost their comparatively slender resources but, whatever line-up they field, they will have their work cut out to match Fulham.

Tigana's men had to settle for a point in the reverse fixture back in November but United, notoriously strong on their own patch, have since sold Marcus Bent to Blackburn and have the problem of how to puncture the best defence in the section with an attack that has scored onlyseven away league goals all season, a dismal record that no other First Division side can or would want to match.

Fulham did not play badly in their loss to Birmingham when midfielder Bjarne Goldbaek was denied by the woodwork and they were undone by a Martin Grainger free-kick, but it was always possible they would struggle in that match without their three classy strikers, Louis Saha, Barry Hayles and Luis Boa Morte.

Hayles could still be ruled out by his ankle injury but Saha returned from a one-match ban to help defeat QPR and Boa Morte, whose link with Saha eventually ripped Watford to pieces two weeks ago, is available again after being suspended for two games.

As back-up, Fulham have Karlheinz Riedle back in action and looking lively, as well as new signing Peter Moller, all of which makes for a potentially depressing afternoon for Neil Warnock's troops.

Fulham have scored three goals or more in 19 of their 37 competitive matches this season and it would be surprising if even the hard-working Blades could keep them quiet for a whole 90 minutes.
Source Racing Post by Paul Johnson
Since 1998
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