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1718 burnley turf moor 04 1000x500When we played our last home game of 2018 against West Ham United, I headed my match preview Final game of the year and points are needed, and when we moved into 2019 at Huddersfield the headline was Points search continues at Huddersfield. Nothing has changed, that remains the target as we try to move further away from the bottom three.

It’s Fulham tomorrow. They are currently bottom of the league but that doesn’t mean an easy afternoon for us, far from it. They’ve beaten us once previously this season on a day when we didn’t really get close to them in terms of performance.

Things have improved since I wrote that West Ham preview. Ahead of that game we had 12 points, had just taken a hammering from Everton and were in 18th place in the table, only one and two points ahead of Fulham and Huddersfield.

We beat West Ham and then went to Huddersfield and won. Those results have lifted us out of the bottom three but there are going to be a lot more points needed for us to ensure we don’t drop back in there this season.

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Left-back Charlie Taylor, who was pushed into midfield last week because of a shortage of wide players, admitted: “In the first half of the season we weren’t as good as we needed to be and we knew that. We knew we needed to change it or we would be in real danger and we’re moving in the right direction now.

He added: “It’s not a nice feeling to see yourself in the bottom three. Now when you look at the league table after a couple of wins it looks a lot better, but we want to keep striving and keep improving and climbing up the able to get as high as we can and as far away from the danger zone as possible.”

Will Taylor return to his defensive position tomorrow? We are still short of wide players. Aaron Lennon is some way away from a return yet, Robbie Brady is suspended and the latest news is that Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson is doubtful again.

There is some good news. Both right-backs were ruled out last week but both have a chance of playing with Matt Lowton the more likely. Nick Pope, Stephen Ward and Steven Defour all returned from injury for the cup tie but Sean Dyche has suggested that Pope and Ward need more game time so I would assume they won’t be in the squad.

Hopefully Guðmundsson will come through and play. If so, the line up could be: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs from: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Steven Defour, Jeff Hendrick, Matěj Vydra, Sam Vokes.

At the start of 2018, Fulham were 12th in the Championship with no apparent likelihood of them troubling the top six. But they went on an astonishing run in the second half of the season. From New Year’s Day onwards they won 52 points, nine more than any other team. It didn’t just take them into the play-offs but into third place and only two points behind second place Cardiff; a win in their final game would have seen them go up automatically.

Having won the play-offs, they haven’t found the Premier League too easy and have currently won just three games, all at home, against us, Southampton and Huddersfield. They’ve not been particularly prolific in front of goal, their total of 19 goals is better than Huddersfield and Newcastle only but defensively they have the worst record of all.

They went on a spending spree in the summer, they are looking to add more new signings this month, but their form cost manager Slavisa Jokanovic his job back in November with Claudio Ranieri returning to the Premier League as his replacement. They’ve picked up slightly, winning a point per game but are four points behind us which is currently the safety position.

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They certainly have some players to keep an eye on. Aleksandar Mitrović is their leading goalscorer with eight. He proved to be a handful down at Craven Cottage while André Schürrle (pictured) was one of their best players on the day.

Having beaten Huddersfield in their last home game, they travelled to Arsenal on New Year’s Day. Reports suggest they played well, certainly far better than the scoreline suggested as they went down to a 4-1 defeat. Last week they went out of the FA Cup against Oldham.

Ranieri is expected to name the same team as the Arsenal game having made changes for the cup. He’s still without Alfie Mawson, a player who was so, so close to joining Burnley last July, through injury.

Their team against Arsenal was: Sergio Rico, Denis Odoi, Maxime Le Marchand, Tim Ream, Cyrus Christie, Tom Cairney, Ibrahima Cissé, Joe Bryan, Ryan Sessegnon, Aleksandar Mitrović, André Schürrle. Subs: Marcus Bettinelli, Stefan Johansen, Floyd Ayité, Luciano Vietto, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Aboubakar Kamara, Jean Michaël Seri.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

We have to go back to the 2015/16 promotion season for Fulham’s last visit to Turf Moor. They arrived with us having won four and drawn one of the previous five games that had seen us move into third place. Our 3-1 win that afternoon lifted us into the top two for the first time all season and it was a position we wouldn’t reach again until February.

We won 3-1 with Andre Gray scoring two first half goals to give us a 2-0 interval lead. In doing that he became the first Burnley player to score two goals in three successive home games since Bert Freeman. He’d netted two in a 2-0 win against Bolton and just days before the Fulham game had scored both in a 2-1 win against Huddersfield.

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The architects of the win thought were the midfield pair of David Jones and Joey Barton with Jones the star man on the day. Jones played the major part in the first goal. His corner was headed out but straight back to him; this time his cross was headed home by Gray.

Jones again started the move for the second, playing the ball to Scott Arfield. His through ball was perfect for Gray to run onto and his finish was clinical.

The game changed just six minutes into the second half when Ross McCormack did what he always did against us, he scored. But, despite having to deal with a lot of balls into our box, we never really looked threatened and in the first minute of four added on we made it 3-1 with a neat finish from Matty Taylor from an Arfield pass. Taylor had made a terrific run to get into the box and he just passed the ball into the bottom corner.

So, another win, third place and we all know how that season ended.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Duff, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield, Joey Barton, David Jones, George Boyd (Matt Taylor 75), Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Chris Long 87). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Matt Lowton, Stephen Ward, Fredrik Ulvestad, Rouwen Hennings.

Fulham: Joe Lewis, Richard Stearman, Dan Burn, Tim Ream (Alex Kačaniklić 59), Ryan Fredericks (Lasse Vigen Christensen 78), Tom Cairney, Jamie O’Hara (Matt Smith 78), Ryan Tunnicliffe, James Husband, Ross McCormack, Moussa Dembélé. Subs not used: Marek Rodak, Luke Garbutt, Ben Pringle, Cauley Woodrow.

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