ESPN Soccernet Preview: Fulham v Hull
Phil Brown's Hull side face a tough test when they travel to Fulham on Monday night. The Tigers, who were woeful in the second half of last season, have not travelled well this year and have picked up just the one point on the road, at Wolves. With the league's worst defence, Hull have a huge squad, but no young players of genuine quality to give them the edge and they look likely to be facing another relegation battle.
That said, Roy Hodgson's Fulham have not started the season well either. After bagging a Europa League place last year, Europe has proved to be something of a distraction as they have lost four of their first seven games in the Premier League. Now they have a clash against Roma on Thursday to worry about and , although they have won just once at home, a 2-1 victory over Everton, should fancy their chances against the struggling Tigers.
Brown will be looking to former Fulham star Jimmy Bullard, who has been out since January with a knee injury, to provide some inspiration as he returns to full fitness, but Hull's entire team will have to be on form if they are to upset the Cottagers in their own backyard.
Fulham player in focus: Andrew Johnson. Yet to score in the Premier League this season, the former England international has the chance to kickstart his form as he is up against the worst defence in the top flight. His pace will worry the Tigers' defence and will capitalise on any chances he is given.
Hull player in focus: Stephen Hunt. Having started all of Hull's games, the Irish midfielder has established himself as a vital part of their attacking play. Two goals have shown his ability to make an impact in the final third and his work on the left side of the pitch has made him one of the top early season performers in the league.
Key battle: Danny Murphy v Geovanni. In the centre of the pitch there is no bigger battle than that between the two creative sparks for their sides. The ability of each to track back and help snuff out the danger of their rival will be key and Murphy has the edge in this department. Given too much room and both will hurt you, but Geovanni boasts a greater goal threat for his powerful long-range shooting ability and the fact he has had a hand in four of their last five goals.
Tactics: Phil Brown is likely to opt for a cautious five-man midfield to help out his creaking defence. Up front, Geovanni should operate behind a lone striker and Hunt will also provide some added width. Fulham love to play with width, so should continue their 4-4-2 with two wide men hugging the touchline and will seek to get in behind the Tigers' defenders.
Quotes: Roy Hodgson on the fitness of his players: "I'm pretty sure by next Wednesday morning all the players who play on the Monday will have physically recovered from Monday's game and will be fit to play. It's more a case of who you would like to see play in the game.''
Phil Brown on the game: ''I've had added time to prepare for Fulham but the analysis of them is secondary to the analysis of us at the moment. That boils down to us playing less risky football and having a higher chance of winning games of football."
In the news: Hull's £5 million man Bullard is back after he spent the last nine months recovering from an operation on his cruciate ligament. He played in a behind-closed-doors friendly against York last Tuesday and scored a cracking goal, but he has played just 37 minutes of first team football for the Tigers. All the talk is whether he will be able to make an impact.
Fulham Team News: Roy Hodgson has almost a full squad available, but could change things around with Roma in mind. Kagisho Dikgacoi will be suspended after being sent off in Fulham's 2-2 draw with West Ham. Long-term absentees Toni Kallio (Achilles) and Simon Davies (foot) will miss out.
Hull Team News: Record signing Jimmy Bullard is poised to make his long-awaited comeback away to his old club. Hull's squad is now nearing full strength - although USA striker Jozy Altidore will not return from international duty until Saturday. Ian Ashbee (knee) is the only major long-term absentee, with Richard Garcia (knee) close to a return.
Probable Fulham line-up (4-4-2): Mark Schwarzer, Paul Konchesky, Brede Hangeland, Aaron Hughes, John Pantsil, Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu, Damien Duff, Zoltan Gera, Diomansy Kamara, Andrew Johnson.
Probable Hull line-up (4-5-1): Boaz Myhill, Andy Dawson, Ibrahima Sonko, Seyi George Olofinjana, Paul McShane, Kamil Zayatte, Jimmy Bullard, Kevin Kilbane, Stephen Hunt, Geovanni, Jan Vennegoor.
Soccernet prediction: Fulham should have enough at their disposal to see off Hull, but don't rule out an appearance on the scoresheet from a certain Mr Bullard if the Cottagers find themselves distracted by the Europa League.