Can The Whites Do It Again?
Back on March 21, Fulham turned the race for the 2008-2009 Premiership title on its ear with a stunning 2-0 defeat of nine-man Manchester United at Craven Cottage.
On Saturday, the Whites will take aim at another big four team when Liverpool comes calling.
Before the win over the Red Devils, there wasn’t much to suggest that Fulham would stage such a massive upset. After all, United handed Fulham a 4-0 loss in the FA Cup on the same ground just two weeks earlier.
But sometimes reality writes a script that would be laughed straight out of Hollywood and Fulham came away with a slightly controversial, highly unlikely victory.
So, the question is, can Fulham start to undo the tightening it helped bring about at the top of the table on Saturday against the Reds?
Hard to say.
Liverpool has won four straight in all competitions, including smashing wins over United at Old Trafford and Real Madrid in the Champions League, outscoring its foes 15-1 in that span.
It’s difficult to imagine that the Reds, just one point back of United (which of course has a match in hand), would slip up against a side that pulled an upset just two weeks ago.
But while Liverpool will likely be without defender Sami Hyypia and midfielder Yossi Benayoun due to injury, the Whites have a full squad from which to choose.
And Fulham gaffer Roy Hodgson doesn’t anticipate any lack of motivation from his side.
“I don’t think we need motivation for any of the Premiership games,” he told fulhamfc.com. “I don’t think I’ve ever sat on the bench or stood in the dugout watching Fulham in the Premiership thinking, ‘we don’t look fully motivated.’ I think we’re dealing with … professional players who know that, ‘this is my job.’”
The “job” for Fulham is to figure out how to ride the wave after such an important win, without falling off the board, so to speak.
The Whites are currently sitting in ninth place in the table, clearly safe from the relegation scrap, but still eight points out a Europa Cup spot.
There is still plenty to play for.
“I do think Liverpool, especially coming after Man United and a good result, will prove a further inspiration,” Hodgson said to the team Web site. “Our task will be to manage the expectations, to some extent. Because a few weeks ago the expectations were that we would comfortably lose this game and keeping the score down would have been about as much as most people would hope for.
“Certainly, those expectations have risen to ‘we can win this game’ or ‘we can get a good result here.’ We would never go into a game saying we can’t win or we want to keep the score down. But we don’t set the expectations. Those come from the outside.”
Liverpool enter the game as prohibitive favorites to pick up three more points to keep the pressure on United.
But that result doesn’t seem like the sure thing it might have been a few weeks ago.