Fulham seek fresh start with Magath
Fulham will look to put a week of off-field drama behind them and focus on their bid to avoid relegation when they travel to fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Saturday.
The west London club are bottom with 20 points, four off safety, and on Friday appointed German Felix Magath as their third manager this season following the dismissals of Martin Jol and Rene Meulensteen.
The club confirmed this week that assistant coach Ray Wilkins and technical director Alan Curbishley had been let go just weeks after they were appointed, while first team coaches Mick Priest and Jonathan Hill also joined the exodus of backroom staff from Craven Cottage.
Fulham, ever-present in the Premier League since 2001, have picked up one point from their last six matches and have brought in Magath in the hope that the noted disciplinarian can arrest their slump.
“We’re going to get the full German experience from him and I definitely think he’ll help us achieve our goal of staying in the Premier League,” midfielder and fellow German Lewis Holtby said.
Record signing Kostas Mitroglou could be in line for his debut after arriving from Greek champions Olympiakos Piraeus lacking match fitness.
West Brom are outside the relegation zone on goal difference and, despite a creditable 1-1 draw with leaders Chelsea last time out, are without a win under new manager Pepe Mel.
Manchester City will be licking their wounds from Tuesday’s Champions League defeat by Barcelona when they host Stoke City on Saturday (1500), their final outing before they meet Sunderland in the League Cup final on March 2.
After picking up one point from their last two matches against Chelsea and Norwich, Manchester City will be desperate to rekindle their title charge.
They are in third spot with 54 points, three off Chelsea and two behind Arsenal.
Stoke striker John Guidetti is unable to play as he is on loan from City but is confident his new team can cause an upset against his parent club.
“The manager (Mark Hughes) has lots of experience, having played and scored many goals in this league, and he’s coached a lot in this league too so he knows how to get a result in these sort of games,” he told the club website (www.stokecityfc.com).
Sunderland, who are battling for top-flight survival despite their cup form – which has also seen them reach the FA Cup quarterfinals – could move out of the relegation zone with a point against Arsenal on Saturday (1500).
Chelsea will look to hold their advantage at the top when they host Everton, themselves in need of victory to close the gap to fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
“We lost the last game in the FA Cup and we don’t want to lose two in a row. That would be bad,” striker Demba Ba told the club’s website (www.chelseafc.com), referring to Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Manchester City.
“We are just going to do everything on Saturday because it’s important to get back to winning ways, it’s important for the title race and it’s important for our confidence.”
Cardiff City are second-bottom, two points off 17th place, and victory over Hull City (1500) is crucial as they seek to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
West Ham United, who play Southampton, appear to have hauled themselves out of danger with three consecutive victories and have not conceded a goal in four matches, their best run of clean sheets since 1986.
“Four in a row is really, really difficult in the Premier League,” goalkeeper Adrian said. “We have to keep going in this direction.”
Saturday’s late kickoff sees Manchester United travel to Crystal Palace as the champions aim to keep in the race for a top-four spot.
On Sunday, Liverpool bid to bounce back from their FA Cup defeat to Arsenal when they host Swansea City while Newcastle United play Aston Villa.
Spurs hope their trip to Ukraine to play DniproDnipropetrovsk in the Europa League on Thursday will not wear them out ahead of their visit to Norwich City.