Cottagers Confidential: I remember when Fulham was in the Premier League that the League Cup was pretty much an afterthought. Another year in the league was much more important than a cup run. If you won a couple of games mostly using your second team, then you'd think about making a run. How do you expect Stoke to approach this game?
4231Stoke: I'd expect us to be going all out to win it, if I'm honest. Being a mid table side, the cup runs are about our only chance of silverware or Europe. Especially so considering our poor start to the season. We'll rotate a few starts but still put out a squad that on paper should be capable of winning. Expect a Craven Cottage return for Sidwell.
CC: Mark Hughes is not a popular figure in Fulham. How do the supporters feel about him? How are they going to feel when he declares that Stoke isn't ambitious enough to suit him?
4231Stoke: By and large we love him. He managed to win over a large amount of doubters that were vocal when he first arrived, and has transformed Stoke City into...well, a football team. He still has his off moments, mainly when it comes to poor substitutions, but overall he's done well for us and we're delighted with him. Naturally we'll understand his reasons for moving to Borussia Dortmund once he's won the Europa League with us, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it!
CC: Being an American I liked that Stoke was picking up some Americans (though Fulhamerica will always be first in my heart). Though other than Geoff Cameron, I haven't followed the team much at all this year. Who are some players that Fulham fans should be watching?
4231Stoke: We love our Americans here. No one will ever beat Maurice Edu's 100% passing accuracy stat in his Stoke career, and I'm personally still not over the loss of Brek Shea. I'm unsure what lineup Hughes will put out, but I'd look out for Stephen Ireland pulling the strings in the #10 role. If Mame Diouf passes fit he'll be a key threat to your defence, but I'm expecting technical target man Joselu to start for this one.
They also had some questions for us, and we did our best to answer.
4231Stoke: For those Stoke fans who aren't following your season so far, how is it going? Are you pleased with your current form?
CC: The season is only going so-so. But the club had a very busy transfer window and has only played together a few times. I'd expect them to play better as they get more time together.
4231Stoke: Who is your key player going into this one? Who's your biggest threat?
CC: Ross McCormack has been the best player on the squad for more than a season, though he may get the day off. You should also be wary of youngsters Moussa Dembele and Cauley Woodrow (one of, if not both will probably start). One player you might recognize who's had a great start to the year is Jamie O'Hara.
4231Stoke: I know it's hard to tell for cup games due to rotation etc, but how do you think you'll line up? What formation & players?
CC: It's hard to tell with Fulham. I expect them to run a 4-4-1-1. Who plays is really unknown. Our starting keeper is out for the year, so does the newly brought in second keeper play (Joe Lewis) or do they stick with Andrew Lonergan who's taken over first team duties? I'd expect Dan Burn and Shaun Hutchinson to be the center backs, but I'm not sure who lines up at full back. Fulham have a lot of choices in midfield, and I'm not sure at all who will start.
4231Stoke: What's your score prediction for the game?
CC: If Fulham run out a lineup close to full strength I expect a nail biting 2-1 win. If they throw out more of a B team I expect a 2-1 loss that breaks our hearts in extra time.
4231Stoke: What are your thoughts on Craven Cottage's neutral stand? Is it something you'd picture in more grounds around the UK?
CC: To be honest I didn't know it was a big deal until I came to visit. In the US there are very rarely segregated stands at all. I'm not sure it is something that will spread, but it makes a lot of sense for Fulham. If you want to visit London and see a football match it can be extremely difficult (I learned this when trying to get tickets for my wife to go to White Hart Lane). Having at least one ground open to neutrals is a great thing for tourists. Some people may disparage Fulham for that, or accuse them of having plastic fans, but teams need to maximize revenue any way they can in this day and age.