Premier League leaders Manchester United travel to Fulham on Saturday, with Sir Alex Ferguson looking to maintain, at worst, the seven-point lead over city rivals and defending champions, Manchester City. The Old Trafford club played the Cottagers only last week, at home, in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Unfortunately for Fulham fans, it was a 4-1 win for United. The reverse league fixture was a closer match though, with United edging it 3-2.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 5.30pm GMT. Live coverage is on ESPN and ESPN HD. Catch highlights on Match of the Day, on BBC One and BBC One HD, at 10.30pm GMT.
Fulham were very active in the mid-season transfer window and signed five new players, including Dutch winger Urby Emanuelson, on loan, from Serie A giant AC Milan. Unfortunately, two of those five signings - Ajax midfielder Eyong Enoh and PSV wing-back Stanislav Manolev - are ineligible for this game because they have yet to receive work permits. The London club also signed Emmanuel Frimpong on loan from Arsenal and the youngster is available for his Craven Cottage debut.
Fulham are 12th in the league and with only 28 points so far need to guard against dropping into the relegation race. The club's recent results have been inconsistent but they do come into this game with a vital win - goals from Dimitar Berbatov, Hugo Rodallega and Joey O'Brien gave them a 3-1 home win over West Ham in midweek.
Overall, the Cottagers have lost two and won two of the last five games in all competitions and the really good news is they have not lost at home since late December, when Swansea won 2-1. And with 21 goals from 12 home games in the Premier League, their scoring rate is reasonable. Expect United to have to do some amount of defensive work in this match.
Meanwhile, the Red Devils can go 10 points clear of City (who play Liverpool at the Etihad on Sunday) with a win here. However, Ferguson will be aware any potential increase in the lead over City will be difficult if his side play as poorly as they did against Southampton in midweek. The Scot admitted after the game that United were lucky to win 2-1 and with a Champions League knock-out tie against a dangerously in-form Real Madrid on the horizon, United must click at Craven Cottage.
The club are in excellent form results-wise though, with their last defeat coming in the group stages of the Champions League in early December. They have won four of their last five games, including a home win against Liverpool.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W L L W D
- Last Match: Fulham 3 - 1 West Ham United
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W D W W
- Last Match: Manchester United 2 - 1 Southampton
Kerim Frei (groin), Simon Davies and ex-Madrid midfielder Mahamadou Diarra (both knee) will be unavailable. Loan signings Frimpong and Emanuelson are expected to start. Berbatov (hamstring) is also unavailable, which means Rodallega will likely start as the sole striker. Kieran Richardson (calf) is doubtful and will likely only make the bench, providing he passes a late test.
Probable Line-Up: Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Frimpong, Emanuelson, Karagounis, Kacaniklic; Ruiz; Rodallega
United will be without long-term absentee Darren Fletcher, while Ashley Young (knee) is unavailable and defender Jonny Evans (hamstring) is still a doubt. Ex-England international Rio Ferdinand may be in line for a recall, with the veteran central defensive partnership of Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic likely to feature.
Probable Line-Up: De Gea; Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia, Cleverly, Carrick, Kagawa; Rooney, Van Persie