The Villa Appetiser: Aston Villa v Fulham 2016
Fulham. A team we always seem to play in times of crisis.
We managed a 1-0 win against them in 2012 thanks to a late Weimann winner, saw a Delph own goal rob us of all three points in 2013, then suffered a 2-1 defeat in 2014.
These past home league encounters occurred towards the end of the season, but at least this time around we have plenty of games to go.
11th place Fulham have Slavisa Jokanovic at the helm, a manager who himself has Championship promotion experience, and they’ll be a tough opponent as Bruce eyes a first home win.
The mood has at least changed around Aston Villa, with this week’s spirited performance at Reading bound to have a positive effect on the atmosphere at Villa Park.
Can Villa carry on the feel-good vibe from Tuesday with a Villa Park victory?
Bruce on Fulham
“They’re unbeaten away from home. They’ve won three and drawn three.
“When you look at their team, they’ve got a little bit of experience.
“We all know Scott Parker, I’ve managed Sone Aluko, and he’s a threat as is Chris Martin. Tom Cairney’s a very, very good footballer who I worked with at Hull. He’s done very very well for them. They’re a good side.
“The one thing we’re going to have to do is be wary of them on the break.
“We can’t be open as we were against Wolves in the second half especially if we give them the space, which they seem to enjoy away from home.
“The onus is on us as the home team. They enjoy that because they’re very good on the counter-attack, we’ll have to guard against them because they’re a very good side”.
Jokanovic on Villa
“Aston Villa changed their coach, and always this is extra motivation for the team. Their squad is full of quality players.
“I don’t know what kind of risk they will take against us. I expect they will try to be solid, strong, and try to surprise us if we make mistakes, or try to catch us on the counter-attack.
“Aston Villa is a big name, good squad, experienced coach, and we have to be ready for everything that is in front of us.
“This competition is full of big names, big clubs. At the start of the Championship 85 per cent of the teams want to be promoted. We are in this 85 per cent, Aston Villa are too.
“If you believe Villa did a fantastic job in the last two games, we did the same job. They won one game away and drew one game at home, I don’t see a big difference.
“We’ve shown that we can fight against all the Championship teams. We are playing against a top team in the competition, okay they’re not at the top of the table but it’s a top name, and it’s extra motivation for us.
“It’s a great place to try and show your best performance. We have confidence, and we’re going to try and dominate the game, but we have to be careful we don’t make big mistakes.
“We have to be ready to stop their counter-attacks. We are going to try and be positive, we are going to try to win the game, to win the points.”
four penalties have been awarded in Fulham’s last three league games
5th April 2014 Villa 1 Fulham 2
Despite a rare goal for Grant Holt, a late winner from Kieran Richardson sealed the points. One of the few occasions Richardson enjoyed a victory at Villa Park…
Villa – Last five matches at home: D 5
Fulham– Last five matches away: W 2, D 3
One to Watch
We’ve usually faired OK against Fulham at home, but that doesn’t tell the full story. They have only lost once in their last eight league meetings with Villa.
While Villa picked up a good result on Tuesday, Fulham were busy against second-placed Norwich, coming back from 2-0 down to salvage a point.
Given our inability to see out games, this fighting spirit shown by Fulham is cause for concern.
Bruce remarked in the week about how four penalties in his first two games could be some kind of bizarre record.
Looking at the statistics, this could continue, as there have been four penalties awarded in Fulham’s last three league games – although only half of those were for the London side.
The Championship is full of strange statistics. Fulham for instance are the only Championship team unbeaten away from home this season. In their six league games on the road, they’ve won half.
We finally had a bit of luck against Reading and the performance was good, but Villa’s counter-attacking approach may not work so well at home on Saturday.
“Aston Villa is a big name, good squad, experienced coach, and we have to be ready for everything that is in front of us” – jokanovic ON VILLA’
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
Historically, we have a good record against Fulham. While we lost in the last league meeting, it was our first defeat in 13 home league clashes with the Whites.
The struggles we’ve endured have somewhat masked the true quality of the team, and with Steve Bruce’s experience, perhaps we have someone who can get the best out of our pricey summer signings. He’s doing something right – Kodjia has scored in back-to-back league games for Villa.
McCormack will be keen to show his quality against his former club, not that he’ll have any points to prove. Rather he’ll want to show he should be in the starting XI, after his mid-week benching. (Interesting note – The last time we played Fulham in a 2015 friendly in Portugal, McCormack was amongst their goalscorers).
Local lads Gardner and Baker impressed against Reading and could again find themselves in the starting XI after their mid-week heroics.
If anything, the Reading result was a promising sign that Villa seem to be learning the ways of the Championship. Persistence and resilience will be vital if we are to climb up the league and this was certainly apparent in Bruce’s second game.
Hopefully we can carry on from where we left off on Tuesday.