West Ham United-Fulham Preview
LONDON (SE) - Fulham and West Ham United will be looking to move clear of the Premier League relegation battle as they meet at Craven Cottage on Wednesday evening.
Both teams are in poor form in the league, winning just two of their last 15 games combined, but remain six (Fulham) and eight (West Ham) points off the drop zone. The sides know a win would give them much-needed breathing space in the bottom half of the table.
Fulham (6-7-10) continued their recent disappointing run of results as they were beaten 4-1 in the FA Cup by Manchester United on Saturday evening, but manager Martin Jol suggested after the defeat that at least his team would now be able to focus on the league run-in.
"It's no guarantee of safety, but I always like it if teams, especially those around us, have replays or stay in the Cup," said Jol. "So in that respect it's probably better to be out of it.
"It's quite simple - we need four or five wins. But if you leave it up until the end of the season, you could probably end up with a problem. If we win those games as soon as possible, it could be easier. I think you will need 36 or 37 points to be safe and at present, there are probably eight teams who are fairly concerned."
West Ham (7-6-10) were smashed 5-1 by Arsenal last Wednesday, and captain Kevin Nolan revealed that the players were given a strong warning over their poor performance by manager Sam Allardyce.
"It was totally unacceptable for us with the standards we have set ourselves," Nolan told the club's official website. "The gaffer wasn't happy and rightly so - so he asked for us to come in at 7am the next morning on the Thursday. There were no complaints from any of us - we all need a kick up the backside every now and then and we take it all on board.
"The gaffer and all of us wanted to put this result and what happened to bed straight away, and it was good that we came in early and got into looking at what went wrong together as a group."
Kieran Richardson (calf) is doubtful for Fulham, but Kerim Frei (groin) Mahamadou Diarra (knee) and Simon Davies (hip) are out. Andy Carroll may make his return for West Ham after a knee injury, while James Collins (hamstring) and Winston Reid (groin) are also close to returns. George McCartney remains absent with a knee ligament injury, while Daniel Potts is out of hospital after suffering severe concussion.
West Ham won 3-0 when these teams met at Upton Park in September. The visitors had more possession and managed more shots on target, but were undone by three first-half goals by Nolan, Reid and Matthew Taylor.
Fulham have just two points from their five games against London opposition this season. The Cottagers have also managed just a single win in their last 13 games against West Ham, losing eight and drawing four.