Championship: Top two battle to put form woes behind them

02 December 2021 16:35:34 CET
Scott Parker takes Bournemouth back to his former club Fulham

The top two in the Championship meet on Friday in a game packed with underlying plotlines.

Leaders Fulham play host to second-placed Bournemouth, with Cherries boss Scott Parker making his first return to Craven Cottage after swapping clubs in the summer.

The game will also feature two out of the top three scorers in the division, while the Cottagers' Harry Wilson will be hoping to show the visitors what they are missing, having previously spent the 2019/20 season on loan at the Vitality Stadium.

Promotion hopefuls aiming to end draw disappointment

Friday's rivals look the two most likely to claim the second tier's automatic promotion spots, with seven points between Bournemouth and third-placed Queens Park Rangers.

Fulham are 1/2 to top the table, with the Cherries 10/3, but both teams head into their clash at the Cottage on the back of two successive draws, leaving home boss Marco Silva and his opposite number Parker with plenty to ponder.

The Cottagers were held 0-0 by Derby and then 1-1 by Preston, although illness did hinder their selection on both occasions.

Nathaniel Chalobah and Ivan Cavaleiro look set to be their only injury absentees on Friday but it is a different story for Bournemouth, who have Gary Cahill, Junior Stanislas, Adam Smith, Lloyd Kelly, Ben Pearson, Jordan Zemura and Robbie Brady all in the treatment room.

Jefferson Lerma is also suspended after being sent off in last Saturday's 2-2 draw at Coventry and injuries are clearly taking their toll on Parker's side.

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After avoiding defeat in their first 15 Championship games, Bournemouth head into their 21st outing having won only one of their last five. Losses to Preston and Derby, either side of a win over Swansea, have been followed by draws against Millwall and Coventry.

Those injury issues are perhaps why Bournemouth are 10/3 to win on the road for the seventh time this season. That would be a league-high, but so would an eighth home victory for Fulham at 5/6, while the draw is 11/4.

Mitrovic v Solanke

That said, despite the pair's recent inconsistencies, there are plenty of goals in both sides, with two men, in particular, standing out.

With 21 goals in 19 matches, an average of a strike every 1.14 games, Aleksandar Mitrovic has dominated the Championship this season and looks well set for the division's Golden Boot, with him 1/8 in the market.

The Serb's incredible run of 12 goals in eight games, including the strike that secured his country's automatic qualification for next year's World Cup, ended in last Saturday's frustrating 1-1 draw at Preston.

Mitrovic has spent the last six years in England, originally joining Newcastle United in 2015, and has carved himself an unfortunate niche of being one of those players who storms through the Championship, but struggles to step up in the Premier League.

There is an argument to say Bournemouth's Dominic Solanke falls into a similar category. A prodigy at Chelsea who was snapped up on a free transfer by Liverpool in 2017, the one-cap England international is only starting to find his form.

Solanke scored 15 Championship goals last term and has already matched that tally this around, his most recent strike being in last month's 1-1 draw at Millwall.

The Reading-born forward was another who was off-target last weekend, but is 21/10 in the any time market on his return to West London, while Mitrovic is 5/6 in the same market and the pair's performances could prove decisive in the outcome of the clash.

Welsh Wizard Wilson has point to prove

Players scoring against their former clubs is an age-old narrative in football and the above mentioned Wilson will want to show the Cherries what they are missing.

The Welshman spent a year in Dorset, but Bournemouth's relegation from the Premier League arguably put paid to a permanent deal.

A year at Cardiff City followed, before a move from Liverpool to Fulham last summer and he has followed it up with six goals and seven assists.

The 22-year-old is 21/10 to score at any time and is expected to start in a three-man support line alongside Neeskens Kebano and Fabio Carvalho.

That trio, plus Mitrovic, will be confident of troubling a likely Cherries back-line of Leif Davis, Chris Mepham, Steve Cook and Jack Stacey.

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