Despite being in different leagues, prior to the weekend’s results only five places separated these two sides across the divisions, with Aston Villa sitting in the relegation zone of the Premier League and Fulham just outside the automatic promotion places in the Championship.
Villa will be the happier of the two after their weekend results, as that gap has widened to eight places, though at Craven Cottage this should be a tight fixture.
The Cottagers are W8-D2-L5 across all competitions at home this season, which includes a narrow 1-0 loss to Premier League outfit Southampton in the Carabao Cup, where they enjoyed the bulk of the possession that day but were lacking creativity in the final third.
The highlight of their home season so far is beating league leaders Leeds United 2-1 just prior to Christmas, while they also held second-placed West Brom to a 1-1 stalemate in September as Scott Parker has shown his side can mix it with the better teams.
Dean Smith will likely rotate after a busy festive period which culminated in his team securing a much needed 2-1 victory at Turf Moor.
However, away from home the Midlands side have been poor as prior to that result they’d lost five of six winless road trips, planting them firmly in a relegation scrap.
Jack Grealish is key to the majority of the visitors’ attacking play, and if he doesn’t start in this game it’s hard to see where the goals will come from.
Further, goalkeeper Tom Heaton and striker Wesley were both injured in their New Year’s Day clash with Burnley, presenting quite the problem as second choice between the sticks Jed Steer is sidelined with a long-term Achilles problem, while the club were already in the market for another striker as it was.
Fulham To Beat Aston Villa
The hosts aren’t devoid of their own issues with an array of injury problems in the centre of the park, as it’s unclear whether Josh Onomah, Tom Cairney and Harrison Reed will be available, though with Aleksandar Mitrovic up top they will always pose a goal threat.
Villa will need to up their game from recent head-to-heads here as Fulham have won each of the last four in West London, with the last three coming by two clear goals.
In fact, home or away they’ve won five of seven clashes since 2013/14 and although the Cottagers are favourites here, they still look a healthy price at odds-against to win.
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