Fulham v Arsenal, Premier League, September 26, 2009
Arsenal travel to Craven Cottage looking to avoid their third straight away defeat in the Premier League on a ground where they have lost two out of their last three fixtures.
A 2-1 victory in November 2006 (14/1 to repeat on Saturday) and a 1-0 win in August 2008 (10/1 to repeat on Saturday) should give Fulham the confidence they need to prove that they can overcome Arsene Wengerâ€™s slick side after a patchy start to the season.
So far in 2009/2010 Fulham have played as many Europa League matches as Premier League games and with all the chopping and changing done by Roy Hodgson the Cottagers are undoubtedly struggling for rhythm.
The opening day win at Portsmouth and the home victory over Everton have kept the vultures at bay but defeats to Chelsea, Aston Villa and Wolves suggest Fulham will not be qualifying for the Europa League next season through a high league placing.
Hodgson bolstered his squad during the summer and in typical sensible style has been resting his first choice players to keep them fresh for league games and a second choice side was sent out for the Carling Cup defeat at Manchester City on Wednesday night.
It must be difficult for the veteran manager to plot a steady course when there are so many games at the moment, a fact which has been compounded by the Fulham â€œreserveâ€ side performing well at City and in Europe last week at CSKA Sofia.
There is enough quality in the Fulham side to trouble the Gunners. Bobby Zamora (17/2 to score & Fulham win) and Andrew Johnson (10/3 to score) are a well balanced strike force even if they donâ€™t get as many goals as they probably should. Clint Dempsey (5/1 to score) is one of the most improved players in recent seasons and Damien Duff (16/1 to score first), like Michael Owen, seems to have a spring in his step since leaving troubled Newcastle.
At the back Arsenal fans will be eager to see how Brede Hangeland performs. The giant Norwegian scored the only goal in the corresponding fixture last season and is linked with the Gunners almost every week. With his contract up at the end of next season it would not be a surprise to see him end up at the Emirates next summer. (Fulham are 9/2 to keep a clean sheet.)
Arsenal, of all the so-called â€œBig Four,â€ look the most likely team to drop out of a Champions League position. (Arsenal are 8/1 to win the Premier League.) Although the football they have played this season has been eye catching, they still lack a defensive resilience to make a challenge for the title and could lose out to one of Manchester City, Spurs or Aston Villa for the lucrative fourth position.
Arsene Wengerâ€™s side really need to put a run of wins together after their consecutive defeats in Manchester. The victories at Standard Liege and Wigan were a good start and they are now in the midst of some very winnable fixtures.
Theo Walcott (9/2 to score & Arsenal win) and Andrey Arshavin (9/2 to score first) could both return from injury at the Cottage and they will add class to a midfield that has seen Alexandre Song and Denilson impress this season and benefit from the return of Tomas Rosicky (10/3 to score).
Thomas Vermaelen (6/1 to score) has been the unexpected star of the new season so far; his brace against Wigan last week confirmed just how well he has adapted to English football. On paper this looks like a very winnable game for the Gunners, if they apply themselves at the back the goals will come at the other end.
101gg predicts: Fulham 0 â€“ Arsenal 3 (10/1)
Full match odds here.