This might be the best game in the Championship so far this season.
That’s no disrespect to Leeds or West Brom, but these sides play the best, most exciting brand of football in the second tier – and while it hasn’t always produced results in the past, I’m confident one of these two will taste automatic promotion with the other being a real force in the play-offs.
What Steve Cooper and Scott Parker are doing is trying to forge identities at their respective clubs – something most forego until they throw money at promotion where a higher calibre of player makes it easier to do it the right way.
As Sheffield United and Bournemouth have bucked that trend in recent times, it now seems clear that it’s possible for the best coaches – and you can pencil both of these men into the future England set-up if they maintain their progression in a coaching environment.
But for now, they come head-to-head at a crucial juncture – points at the Christmas period are hard to come by because of the congestion. But, I fancy a couple of bets here.
Under 1.5 Goals – 3/1
Two teams that love to keep the ball, there’s not enough quality in midfield here to break the deadlock early – and then these games tend to peter out into a chess match.
That’s not to say it won’t be a good spectacle – but you’ll do well to breach both backlines, especially when both sides’ primary aim is to keep the ball.
Fulham have conceded just seven times in their last eight Championship games. That’s a startling statistic. That’s largely down to a good habit of not losing focus from set-pieces and maintaining possession so the other team waste their energy trying to retrieve it.
Swansea, for their troubles, really do struggle to score at home, averaging just 1.18 goals per game at the Liberty Stadium this season, conceding the exact same amount.
You can see the logic, anyway.
Fulham to Win – 7/5
You can just see them turning the screw, you know.
There are more moments of magic in this Fulham team, but there’s also a clear plan B if they need it.
Or perhaps Parker will roll the dice and line out Kamara and Mitrovic together, which would cause havoc for centre-halves not knowing whether to stick or twist. You can’t have Kamara run in behind, but you also can’t risk standing off Mitrovic given his ability to control, turn and shoot.
That Derby result won’t do these charges any harm.
Time of First Goal: After the 26th Minute – 11/10
This will be a cagey encounter and the very game that this type of market was invented for.
Given the midweek trials and tribulations these two have had to endure, I fully expect both to take their time in feeling the game out, before anyone even has a meaningful effort on goal.
If anything, I suspect this goal will come late in the second half, but to get over even money about anything after the 26th minute is a nicer play here.
* All odds correct at time of posting.