Fulham host Arsenal at Craven Cottage on Sunday in a clash that reunites two old London rivals in the Premier League for the first time in over four years.
The hosts head into this weekend off the back of a tough defeat away to Everton last weekend, but should not head into Sunday’s match too dispirited following brighter showings in earlier matches this season.
Fulham have rather struggled for consistency in recent weeks and, on current form, their season appears to be taking something of an early dip which Slavisa Jokanovic will be keen to see his side get out of on Sunday.
A tough 3-0 defeat away to champions Manchester City was followed up with a more encouraging 1-1 draw at home to Watford, before a much-changed side overcame Millwall 3-1 away in the Carabao Cup. However, a 3-0 defeat away to Everton last weekend leaves the Cottagers much to do on Sunday to get back to winning ways in the league.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have found a successful formula for squeezing three different competitions into a winning run in recent weeks, as a hard-fought 2-1 win away to Newcastle United was followed up with a more comfortable 4-2 win at home to Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League.
Another strong second half showing from the Gunners was enough to overcome Everton with a 2-0 win the following weekend, before hosting Brentford in the Carabao Cup as Emery’s side ran out 3-1 winners over the Championship side.
The same pattern continued in the league as Arsenal once more drew blank in the first half before a late second half rally saw the Gunners triumph over Watford with another 2-0 win at the Emirates for the second weekend running. A 3-0 win away to Quarabag in the Europa League on Thursday with a much-changed side continued the strong run of form.
The two sides last met in January 2014, just four months before Fulham’s relegation from the Premier League that season was confirmed.
Arsenal were the hosts on that occasion, too, as the Gunners displayed a very similar tendency to that which has been their formula for success this season, with a goalless first half being followed up with a stronger second half showing to blow the opposition away.
On that occasion, Santi Cazorla stepped up with a decisive quick-fire brace around the hour mark to defeat the visitors.
Fulham head into the weekend without Alfie Mawson due to an apparent back injury.
Calum Chambers, on loan at Fulham from the Gunners, will be ineligible to play against his parent club, meaning that the Cottagers will be short of central defensive options on Sunday. Joe Bryan is also set to miss out after sustaining a hamstring injury last weekend.
Fulham’s defensive woes are further increased through the absence of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, after the on-loan Manchester United defender was stretchered off at Goodison Park last week with a suspected dislocated shoulder. The Dutchman is likely to be out until November.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have recently confirmed that goalkeeper Petr Cech will miss the next three to four weeks after sustaining a hamstring injury during last weekend’s win at home to Watford. Bernd Leno replaced the Czech in the match and will likely continue on Sunday.
Meanwhile, captain Laurent Koscielny continues his rehabilitation from his achilles injury but is now working outdoors and is likely to return next month, and midfielder Ainsley-Maitland Niles is recovering from a fractured fibula and should be back in training this month.
Konstantinos Mavropanos is the Gunners’ only other absentee, as the young defender continues to nurse a groin injury which is expected to keep the Greek centre back out until the end of the month. Emile Smith Rowe has recovered from a minor hip issue and is available.
Fulham’s home form has been stronger than their away showings and suggests that the Cottagers should have more of a chance against the Gunners on their own turf despite comfortable defeats at the hands of Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton away from home.
However, the home side’s defence is ravaged with injuries. Fulham’s backline on Sunday will be make-shift at best, and up against the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in Arsenal’s attack, the Cottagers are likely to be picked off by the Gunners’ firepower.
Arsenal’s defence has struggled this term and Fulham may fancy their chances with the dangerous Aleksandar Mitrovic up against Shkodran Mustafi, but the Gunners have now kept a clean sheet against dangerous attacking players in each of their last two league outings.
Score predicition: Fulham 1-3 Arsenal