Fulham v West Brom - Match preview

It’s a game that both sides will look upon as a huge opportunity.

Karlan Grant of West Bromwich Albion (AMA)
Karlan Grant of West Bromwich Albion (AMA)

Albion take on Fulham at Craven Cottage this evening with both teams desperate to register their first league win of the campaign.

Last season – in the Championship – there was next to nothing separating the sides with a 1-1 draw in London followed by a goalless stalemate at The Hawthorns.

The Baggies, though, have every right to feel they have adapted to life in the top flight better than their opponents.

One poor performance at Southampton aside, Slaven Bilic’s men have got better with each outing. And while that first win has so far eluded them, they enter today’s game two matches unbeaten – having secured back-to-back draws against Burnley and Brighton.

In both those games, Bilic’s side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. They also created more goalscoring opportunities.

“We are fighting, we are growing, we are learning and we are improving everywhere,” Bilic said.

“The last couple of games we had possession, we had more shots – all those departments that are important in the modern game.

“The guys are getting more confident – both as a team and as individuals. We are very positive at the moment.”

Intriguingly, Scott Parker thinks Fulham are also “moving in the right direction”.

But the boss knows performances must be converted into results.

Fulham have lost five of their six Premier League matches so far.

The one point they did collect came against a Sheffield United side who are also struggling.

And it is at the back where they have really struggled.

Parker’s men have simply been too open with team’s finding it far roo easy to create chances against them.

They have particularly looked vulnerable when pacey striker’s latch onto through-balls – something Albion can look to exploit with Karlan Grant. And they also haven’t defended set-pieces well.

What they do have, however, is front players that can hurt you.

The physical Aleksandar Mitrović is always a handful up front – with his tussle with Branislav Ivanovic sure to be a key battle tonight.

Winger Ademola Lookman has arguably been Fulham’s best player since arriving on loan from RB Leipzig and will ask questions of Darnell Furlong, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek looks a cracking loan addition from Chelsea.

Key for Albion will be stopping the ball getting to those players with Harrison Reed the man Fulham look to play through.

But if Jake Livermore can shackle his threat, the Baggies know they have the players who can really get at Fulham.

Matheus Pereira’s vision should enable Grant to be a real threat in behind.

Grady Diangana will fancy his chances up against Ola Aina, while Filip Krovinovic and Conor Gallagher will back themselves to win their duel against Tom Cairney and Andre-Frank Anguissa.

With both teams set to line-up in a 4-3-3 formation, this is going to be a game where winning individual battles is going to be key.

If Albion come out on top in the majority, they will win the game.

But Fulham know they are in exactly the same boat.

With both teams desperate for that first win, you can expect – at times – this will be a nervy and cagey affair.

Albion, though, have shown over the past few weeks they are on the right track.

“Every game is an opportunity -– is this a bigger opportunity? Yes it is,” Bilic said.

“We have belief because performances are improving.

“We won’t underestimate Fulham.

“But we are doing everything to get that first win, we are very optimistic.”

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