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Game preview - Manchester City (a)

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We always seem to have a pretty lovely time of it at the City of Manchester Stadium, but something tells me that, this time around, the tide is somewhat against us. Manchester City are in the midst of a slight recession - certainly not financially, but their form has been dipping - and, as Manchester United damningly proved earlier in the season, a wounded animal should always be feared. They beat us 5-0 and we had never been so humiliated since our introduction to the Premier League.

Not only that, but we have a crisis of our own, following the delirious happenings of transfer deadline day and Bobby Zamora's subsequent departure. Our 1-1 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion proved as much, with the Baggies pegging us back while we pushed up without a recognised striker on the field of play. We all had an inkling in the Summer that, without a new striker, there'd be trouble ahead, but nobody believed it would reach such a harsh pinnacle.

Perhaps, then, we're a wounded animal too. But, unfortunately, with our lacking front line, we have the arsenal of a mouse while City will come at us, claws and everything.

They can be held, though, as Roy Hodgson proved with his West Brom side. It may have been at the Hawthorns, and it may have been a defensive display that proves the antithesis of Martin Jol's attacking philosophy, but it showed that the likes of the remarkably powerful Sergio Aguero and the comically inept Mario Balotelli can be halted in their tracks with pure, unadulterated organisation.

If that wasn't enough, Everton and Sunderland did a decent job too, both grabbing 1-0 wins.

As stated, City are incurring somewhat of a dip in form in the new year, with only 3 wins from a possible 7 competitive fixtures. They did, and they'll consider it crucial to their title challenge, topple Spurs, but the fact that, were Jermain Defoe 2 inches taller they'd be second in the league, may well play on their minds. That was their last victory and it came two weeks ago.

We're in a similar blip - it's just unfortunate for us that it's lasted the whole season so far. We can win, but they're very sporadic and the likes of Blackburn Rovers and West Brom are, for some reason, very difficult to conquer in this campaign.

A well fought 2-2 draw earlier in the season between the two sides will go a long way to boost the confidence of Jol's men, but they know better than anyone that fixtures away from Craven Cottage provide a vastly different examination of their guile. Last term we drew 1-1 here, despite losing 4-1 in the home leg, and the stadium will always bring back wonderful memories of our dramatic escape from relegation in 2008 - Diomansy Kamara the unexpected hero that day.

City will be without the suspended Mario Balotelli, surely much to the relief of Jol, while both the Toures will not be back in time from the African Nations Cup.

Moussa Dembele and Mark Schwarzer return for Fulham, though it's not clear whether either will start. David Stockdale has held fort admirably in the Australian's void. Steve Sidwell suffered a hernia problem and will be out for six weeks, while Andy Johnson is still sidelined. Word is, Pavel Pogrebnyak's confirmed absence is down to matters of international clearance.

Predicted line up: Schwarzer; Riise, Hangeland, Hughes, Kelly; Dempsey, Etuhu, Murphy, Frei, Duff; Ruiz

Score Prediction: Man City 2-0 Fulham