Fulham boss Marco Silva has warned his side they will face a tough task this evening as they face bottom side Derby County, listing the Rams’ character, personality and quality as their three key strengths as he spoke to the Cottagers’ media team.
Silva’s men climbed to the top of the table on Saturday after convincingly beating relegation strugglers Barnsley 4-1 at the weekend, with Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fabio Carvalho, Neeskens Kebano and Harry Wilson all getting on the scoresheet against the Tykes.
Their attack has been their major strength this term, with main man Mitrovic registering a superb 21 goals in 18 games and the west London outfit recording 48 as a unit in the Championship this term.
Quiz: 30 questions about some of Derby County’s best strikers from the last 5 years – Can you score 30/30?
This is three times as many goals as tonight’s opponents have managed to score, with the next best attacking team in the second tier in AFC Bournemouth currently sitting a whopping 15 goals behind them with just 18 league games of the 2021/22 campaign played.
They come up against a Derby side that have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last six matches having conceded just seven in 12 before that, having previously established themselves as one of the best defensive sides in the division.
However, they have been able to score in each of these past six games, whilst still attempting to strike the right balance between attacking intent and defensive solidity.
Despite the league difference between the two sides and their vastly contrasting form though, with the Rams’ win against Bournemouth on Sunday coming after they went winless in their previous seven fixtures, the Cottagers’ boss Silva believes his side have a mountain to climb if they want to overcome Wayne Rooney’s men.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s clash as he described this meeting as ‘tough game’ for his side, he added: “My words straight after Saturday’s match when I was asked about Derby, I started to congratulate them because the players and the staff have shown great character and a strong personality to deal with the situation.
“They are always a really tough team to beat, you can see in the number of defeats they’ve had until now. Even if they are in that position, they have already collected 21 points.
“They have strong character and strong personality, and quality as well. And the staff as well, with the manager, it’s possible [they stay up]. For sure they will come here to match us, they come here to fight.
“Even if they look at the table and their position is not fair to them, they know their quality, they know why they are in that position, and they know the only way to get out of that position is by getting good results.”
Silva is right to warn his players ahead of tonight, because complacency will cost them and this is why the Rams’ result against a fellow automatic promotion candidate Bournemouth probably came at the right time for the west London side.
With this in the back of their mind, they will know Derby won’t just roll over and considering how far adrift Rooney’s side are from safety, they simply must go into each game wanting to get on the front foot.
Although this could create problems for the Cottagers’ defence with Tom Lawrence in good form, it also presents an opportunity for tonight’s hosts to find holes in Derby’s defence at Craven Cottage.
If they can find these gaps early on, they could build a comfortable lead before half-time and settle any nerves, especially important against a side that have nothing to lose in their current situation with the East Midlands side expected to be relegated to the third tier at the end of the campaign.
Whether Fulham will win though will depend on their mindset – and although they mustn’t take this game lightly – they should also go into this game with the confidence required to impose themselves on the Rams right from the first whistle.