MX23RW : Monday, September 20 15:01:44| >> :120:19681:19681:
Apr 3, 2015 at 3pm UK at Craven Cottage
McCormack (67' pen.)
FT(HT: 0-1)
Dallas (24', 58'), Judge (90'), Jota (94')

Preview: Fulham vs. Brentford

Sports Mole looks ahead to Good Friday's West London derby between relegation-threatened Fulham and playoff-chasing Brentford at Craven Cottage.

Craven Cottage will play host to a West London derby on Good Friday as Fulham take on Brentford for the third time this season.

Both sides still have plenty to fight for at either end of the Championship table and could see their respective goals edge ever closer should they successfully negotiate an Easter period that sees two games in quick succession.


Fulham Manager Kit Symons attends the Sky Bet Championship match between Fulham and Brighton & Hove Albion at Craven Cottage on December 29, 2014© Getty Images

The Cottagers would have begun the season looking for an immediate return to the Premier League following their relegation from the top flight in the 2013-14 season, but they were quickly forced to reassess their goals and now the aim of the game is purely survival with seven matches of the season remaining.

An eight-point gap currently separates Kit Symons's side from the bottom three going into the final straight, but with Wigan Athletic showing signs of improvement in recent weeks, nothing is yet guaranteed for the Londoners.

Their saving grace could well be their run-in, with three of the bottom four still to come in successive matches later this month. Results in those games will determine whether that is a blessing or a curse, but Symons will be glad that his side have their fate in their own hands.

After Friday's clash with Brentford, Fulham's only remaining matches against teams currently in the top 10 of the table are their last two of the season, by which time they will hope to have their Championship status guaranteed for another term at least. Compare that to Wigan, who have four of the top eight still to come, and the advantage very much lies with Fulham.

Momentum can so often be a priceless commodity in football, though, and for that reason Fulham's 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town could be worth its weight in gold come the end of the season.

Symons labelled it the most bizarre match he has ever been involved in, with Huddersfield striker Nahki Wells missing two penalties, the woodwork being struck three times and the referee sending the wrong player off before reversing his decision and eventually dismissing Sam Hutchinson.

Fulham certainly rode their luck to pick up the win, but they would argue that they were due a slice of fortune having been beaten 3-0 by Leeds United just days earlier in a match they controlled for long spells.

However the victory arrived, the most important thing for the Cottagers was the three points. It was only their second triumph in 14 matches and could be the catalyst to push them over the finishing line this season.

They have only managed back-to-back wins once since the turn of the year, though, and home form is also an issue with just one win from their last six outings in front of their own fans.

Recent form: WLLDLW


Andre Gray of Brentford FC celebrates scoring the first goal with Mark Warburton Manager of Brentford FC during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Watford at Griffin Park on February 10, 2015© Getty Images

The odds at the start of the season would have had Brentford finishing not too far from where their London rivals and Good Friday opponents currently find themselves, but Mark Warburton's side have maintained their surprise promotion bid and remain right in the mix going into the final month or so of the season.

Victory on Friday would lift the Bees up to fifth place in the table for a few hours at least, with Ipswich Town and Derby County both involved in late kickoffs against fellow promotion candidates.

Just one defeat in their last five matches has enabled Brentford keep pace with those around them, although they have been helped in that regard by regular slip-ups above them.

Brentford slipped up themselves at home to Millwall in another London derby before the international break, although the 2-2 draw at Griffin Park could have been even worse. The Lions led 2-0 until the 85th minute and looked certain to give their own survival hopes a boost, but late goals from Alex Pritchard and Moses Odubajo rescued a point for the hosts.

It is now six games since the Bees kept a clean sheet, however, and in a playoff race so fiercely contested, the fact that they have the worst defensive record in the top eight could prove to be important in terms of goal difference.

Another area that could do with improvement is their away form, with last month's victory over Blackburn Rovers their first in four games on the road. Indeed, Brentford have lost more games on their travels this season than any other side in the top half.

Warburton's future at the club has already been decided, and he will be keen to extend his stay from seven remaining matches to 10 by reaching the playoffs and making it to Wembley.

Easter weekend could prove to be the most important yet in that regard, with Brentford facing playoff outsiders Nottingham Forest on Monday and all of the top eight apart from Norwich playing at least one other contender for promotion.

Recent form: LWDLWD

Team News

Kostas Stafylidis of Fulham during the Sky Bet Championship match between Watford and Fulham at Vicarage Road on March 3, 2015 © Getty Images

Fulham were busy in the closing stages of the loan market and could name a number of debutants in their side for this match.

Danny Guthrie is in line for a start having arrived from Reading, while James Husband has also joined. Brentford loanee goalkeeper Richard Lee is not available against his parent club, however.

The Cottagers will have Kostas Stafylidis back available after he served a suspension last time out, but Hutchinson is banned following his dismissal against Huddersfield.

Top scorer Ross McCormack is expected to return to the starting XI having failed a late fitness test before the international break, but Symons must decide whether to partner him with Matt Smith, Cauley Woodrow or Hugo Rodallega up front.

Andre Gray replaced Chris Long in the starting lineup for Brentford's draw against Millwall and is expected to keep his place as the lone striker. Alan Judge and Tommy Smith are among those pushing for recalls, but Warburton could keep changes to a minimum.

January signing Lewis Macleod may be involved at some point, having made his long-awaited debut in an Under-21 match last week following a three-month spell on the sidelines.

Fulham possible starting lineup:
Bettinelli; Grimmer, Bodurov, Turner, Stafylidis; Hoogland, Tunnicliffe, Guthrie, Kavanagh; McCormack, Rodallega

Brentford possible starting lineup
Button; Odubajo, Dean, Tarkowski, Bidwell; Jota, Pritchard, Douglas, Diagouraga, Dallas; Gray

Head To Head

This will be the third meeting between these two sides this season, with both clubs boasting one win apiece so far.

Fulham eliminated Brentford in the second round of the League Cup at Griffin Park back in August, with McCormack getting the only goal of the game, but the Bees got their revenge in the league as two goals in the final 10 minutes saw them come from behind to win 2-1.

They had not met since 1998 before this season, but Fulham have won just one of their last 10 home matches against Brentford and none of their last four.

Video Preview

Hit play below to see what the Sports Mole Sofa had to say about this encounter:

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We say: Fulham 1-2 Brentford

Both sides need a win in this one, but the international break may have robbed Fulham of any momentum gathered from their victory over Huddersfield. Both have struggled to keep the opposition at bay this season, and we can see goals at either end of the field, but Brentford should just nick it to give their playoff hopes a boost.

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Fulham caretaker manager Kit Symons looks on during the Capital One Cup Third Round match between Fulham and Doncaster Rovers at Craven Cottage on September 23, 2014
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