Despite sitting just two points outside the play-offs, Fulham have been somewhat inconsistent so far this season, combining a couple of scintillating displays with some abject performances.
Their record over the last six games – two wins, two draws and two losses – highlights this point.
In a highly congested table, Birmingham City sit just a point but four places below the Whites in 12th, meaning that the winner of the clash at St Andrew’s on Saturday will be very close to – if not inside – the play off places, whereas the loser is likely drop into the bottom half.
Thus, the game on Saturday is a crucial one for both clubs. Here, we look two battles on the pitch that are likely to has a massive impact on which club takes home the crucial three points.
Jake Clarke-Salter v Alexander Mitrovic
Two of Birmingham’s best players this season have been their centre backs, captain Harlee Dean and Marc Roberts. Both physically strong and good in the air, they mop up almost anything that has been hit long by the opposition.
Both would likely relish a battle with big-money man Alexander Mitrovic, who is physically strong himself and has already bagged 11 goals so far this campaign.
However, Dean is now banned for three games after receiving a red card in the game at The Cardiff City Stadium, so youngster Jake Clarke-Salter is likely to step in in his absence.
The Chelsea loanee has only appeared once for Birmingham so far – when Roberts missed a game through injury – putting in an admittedly solid display in a 1-0 defeat at Wigan.
Serbian international Mitrovic though, being arguably the best striker in the division, will be a different proposition to anything he faced that night, and Clarke-Salter will need to be up for a battle from the very first minute, or it could well be a long afternoon for the Blues.
Jude Bellingham v Alfie Mawson
Alfie Mawson arrived at Premier League Fulham last season in a big money move from Swansea, for a reported fee of up to £20 million.
Unfortunately for the England U21 international, he struggled for form and only played 15 league games as Fulham suffered a disastrous season and were relegated to the Championship.
This season, however, he has played every game and looked more like the player that interested the Whites initially, having made an impressive 42 clearances already.
Mawson is likely to have a tough afternoon, though, against 16-year-old sensation Jude Bellingham.
Bellingham has already started seven games since breaking on to the first team scene this season, and his impressive dribbling ability has been well supplemented by 2 goals and a high pass completion rate.
Mawson will certainly have to watch the teenager closely and be aware of his darting runs from midfield if Fulham are to have any chance of keeping a clean sheet.