With cup defeat well behind us (hopefully), Fulham travel up to Eastlands on Sunday to face a Manchester City side supposedly on their 'bare bones' with only 16 fit men to choose from.
Roberto Mancini's men eased past Greek side Aris Thessaloniki on Thursday evening in the Europa League despite an injury crisis which has hit the richest club in England 'hard'. Edin Dzeko proved his price tag in what was a well-defined rout at the City of Manchester Stadium with 2 goals in a fine 3-0 win. Fingers crossed the Cottagers will fare slightly better.
Now fully considered a top 4 side, this is by no means a simple game for the whites, and the critics have all but justified that with few media outlets even offering us a glimmer of hope ahead of the tie. Mark Hughes, of course, faces his old club and looks set to seek vengeance for his unlawful departure at Manchester City previous to Mancini's appointment. One hopes Hughes leaves this out of his team talk, however, and focuses on getting some much needed points on the board.
Man City haven't played in the League since their 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford on 12th February, but, since then, they've scored 8 goals and conceded none in the FA Cup and Europa League respectively. On the other hand, Fulham haven't recorded a win since early February and have only scored 3 goals this month.
Earlier in the year, at the Cottage, the Fulham faithful unfortunately witnessed the downfall of Hughes' Fulham with a 'disgraceful' 4-1 defeat. Since then things have picked up, but we would do well to match feats of previous seasons at Eastlands where we have recorded very respectable wins and draws under Hodgson's tutorship, including a memorable 3-2 victory over Sven-Goran Eriksson's City side.
After initial delight at Bobby Zamora's return to full health, news has broken of a small ankle complaint that may keep him out of contention for Sunday's game. Hughes says he is 'hopeful' of a return in time, however. Unfortunately, new signing Steve Sidwell has been ruled out for a month with a knee ligament injury which leaves Sparky's options open in midfield.
As reported, City are undergoing their own form of an injury crisis, although, how seriously that can affect such a rich squad I don't know. Centre back Vincent Kompany is set to miss out, although Mancini may test his fitness pre-match before chucking Kolo Toure in to replace him. Shay Given, Micah Richards, James Milner, Nigel De Jong and Adam Johnson are all certainties to miss out.
Score Prediction: Man City 2 - 1 Fulham
Predicted Line-Up: Schwarzer; Baird, Hangeland, Hughes, Salcido; Duff, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey; Johnson, Dembele