Official Matchday Programme • Fulham Vs. Newcastle United | 05•08•16
There’s no doubt that Newcastle and Fulham will have promotion on their minds this season, with both clubs committing themselves to rebuilding this summer.
Newcastle, managed by a Champions League winner in Rafa Benitez, will go into tonight’s match as favourites and arguably boast the strongest squad in the division.
It’s no surprise that the Toon Army are backed by most to finish at the top come May.
Despite the sale of star midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum this summer, Newcastle have spent wisely, bringing in, amongst others, the likes of Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie – these are two impressive talents who will deliver at this level.
But Fulham go into the game full of confidence after an excellent pre-season. With
Head Coach Slaviša Jokanovic implementing his own style on the team, the Whites head into the campaign with high hopes of achieving something special. Jokanovic has been able to add some much-needed pace to the side with the signings
of Floyd Ayité and Sone Aluko.
With those two stretching defences, Tom Cairney should find himself with more space
to operate in the final third and play a killer pass. With Aluko in the number 10 role against Crystal Palace last Saturday, his freedom to roam the pitch allowed Cairney to drift in from the right, causing the Eagles’ defence a number of problems.
Should Fulham keep up that fluidity and movement tonight, Newcastle’s quality will be tested. After some of the Fulham squad missed the Palace friendly due to illness and injury, Jokanovic will be hoping Marcus Bettinelli and David Button will be available for selection, although Jesse Joronen impressed last weekend.
It will be interesting to see if young Ryan Sessegnon starts at left-back, too, or whether Denis Odoi, Scott Malone (pictured) or Tim Ream get the nod. Odoi can also operate at right-back, as can Richard Stearman and Tomas Kalas. It’s a blow to lose Ryan Fredericks for a couple of months at least, but his absence creates an opportunity for someone else to step up. There will be an interesting battle in the centre of the park tonight with both Fulham and Newcastle boasting impressive midfields. If Fulham can win the contest in that position this evening, the Whites could well open the campaign with three points. If it is a draw or a loss for Fulham this evening, a season isn’t defined after just one performance. With Jokanovic still trying to add to his squad, Fulham should have a much stronger set of resources to utilise for their third season in the Championship.
Most importantly, let’s make Craven Cottage a fortress tonight. Let’s get the place rocking and do everything we possibly can as fans to encourage the side. We’re in a much-better position than previous seasons and we’ll only progress as a club. The foundations have been laid for a stronger Fulham; now we just have to build upon them.
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