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Preview: Ipswich Town vs. Fulham

Sports Mole previews the late Saturday kickoff in the Championship as playoff hopefuls Ipswich host recently-relegated Fulham at Portman Road.

Fulham will get life back in the Championship underway when they travel to Portman Road to take on Ipswich Town on Saturday evening.

The Cottagers finished 19th in the Premier League last season to end a 13-year spell in the top flight and return to the second tier of English football.

They will be hoping for a more successful and less turbulent campaign this time around having gone through three different managers in 2013-14.

The West Londoners certainly enter the new season as one of the favourites to bounce straight back into the Premier League, and owner Shahid Khan has splashed the cash in an effort to help boss Felix Magath.

Last season's Championship top scorer Ross McCormack has arrived at Craven Cottage for £11m, while Adam Taggart, Kay Voser and Thomas Eisfeld have also signed for undisclosed fees.

As with any club being relegated, though, there have been a number of exits, including established names such as John Heitinga, John Arne Riise, Damien Duff, Steve Sidwell, Giorgios Karagounis, Brede Hangeland, Sascha Riether, Pajtim Kasami, Kieran Richardson, David Stockdale and Ashkan Dejagah.

Such a huge turnover in players is bound to have an impact on the squad, and Magath will be desperate to help his new-look side gel quickly in order to keep up with the early pace-setters.

The signs have been good in pre-season, with just one defeat and five victories from their six outings.

Ipswich also go into this season with hopes of promotion, although their most likely route is certainly via the playoffs rather than as one of the league's top two teams.

The Tractor Boys finished four points off the top six last season and showed signs of a possible challenge in the upcoming campaign, particularly if they can keep the likes of David McGoldrick fit this time around.

However, they did lose a key player over the summer as Aaron Cresswell made the step up to the Premier League with West Ham United, and he is someone that Mick McCarthy will need to replace.

Former Crystal Palace defender Jonathan Parr could be the man to do that, and he is likely to be one of a number of debutants on show at Portman Road this weekend.

One new signing that won't feature in the early stages of the season is Cameron Stewart after he was ruled out for "four to six weeks" with a broken jaw.

Recent form

Ipswich: WDWWWD

Fulham: WLWWWW

Possible starting lineups

Ipswich: Gerken; Mings, Berra, Chambers, Parr; Bajner, Hyam, Skuse, Wordsworth; Murphy, McGoldrick

Fulham: Bettinelli; Hoogland, Bodurov, Amorebieta, Stafylidis; David, Parker, Eisfeld, Kacaniklic; Dembele, Woodrow

Sports Mole says: 1-2


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Fulham manager Felix Magath prior to kick-off against Hull in the Premier League match on April 26, 2014
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