PREVIEW: Fulham v Luton Town

Town head to table-toppers this evening
Dan Potts celebrates scoring against Fulham during the Hatters 3-2 defeat in October 2019Dan Potts celebrates scoring against Fulham during the Hatters 3-2 defeat in October 2019
Dan Potts celebrates scoring against Fulham during the Hatters 3-2 defeat in October 2019

Fulham completed one of the least surprising promotions back to the Premier League recently last month when dispatching Preston North End 3-0 at Craven Cottage.

As expected, the Cottagers, relegated from the top flight last term, were heavily tipped to not just go up, but win the league as well, and are now a single win away from doing so, with victory against the Hatters enough to secure the Championship title, a draw good enough too considering their more than healthy goal difference.

Marco Silva's men didn't quite have things all their own way in the early stages of the season, but a 6-2 home win over Bristol City on January 15 saw the Cottagers move top of the table and they haven't been toppled since.

In fact, that victory began a prolific spell where they scored 22 goals in four games, including six on back-to-back sixes occasions with a 7-0 success at Reading too.

A decisive sequence of 10 victories from 12, taking 31 points from 36, saw Silva’s side pull well clear of the chasing pack as they also hammered Swansea 5-1, their top flight class beginning to shine through.

Form has dipped ever so slightly with the finishing line firmly in sight, Fulham drawing 1-1 at Barnsley and losing to West Bromwich Albion, during a run of five straight away games, but they recovered to triumph at QPR and Middlesbrough.

Successive defeats against Coventry and Derby meant the champagne was on ice, but the Cottagers finally secured their place in next year's Premier League by beating the Lilywhites on April 19.

Since then, the Cottagers have drawn at Bournemouth and lost at home to Nottingham Forest, as they could have been crowned champions ahead of the game tonight had nearest rivals Bournemouth lost to Blackburn on Saturday.

A 3-0 success for the Cherries put the ball in the Cottagers' court, which is just what Silva wanted too, as speaking to the club's official website, he said: “Definitely on Monday, believe me, I would prefer to do it on Monday.

“That Tuesday night we had against Preston, the way we did it, the way we won, the way everyone celebrated in the stadium, the three points and the promotion, we would like to repeat it again because it was a special night and we would like to have a special evening again on Monday.

“Something I can control and we can control as a team is our game, so I would definitely prefer Monday.

“It’s a club that doesn’t have a lot of titles, great history, but not a big number of titles.

“Of course if we can do it, it will be an important statement for us as a group of players, staff, and as a club as well.”

The club’s high level of performance was recognised with four players named in the EFL Championship Team of the Year recently, a side managed by Luton chief Nathan Jones, as Tosin Adarabioyo, Antonee Robinson, plus the stand-out front players in Harry Wilson and Aleksander Mitrovic were all selected.

Wilson has returned 16 assists and scored 10 goals following his £12 move from Liverpool in the summer, while the Serbian striker Mitrovic has once again proved he is head and shoulders above the rest of the Championship level with 41 goals, breaking the record set by Brentford's Ivan Toney at 31 last year.

Team news: Luton have a number of injury concerns and will hand a debut to Hull City keeper Matt Ingram after he joined on an emergency loan deal yesterday.

Gabe Osho, James Shea and Glen Rea are all out for the season, with doubts remaining over Elijah Adebayo and Sonny Bradley who limped off against Blackpool last week.

Reece Burke and Jordan Clark are back in training, although Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Fred Onyedinma, Luke Berry and James Bree aren't expected to feature.

For the Cottagers, Marco Silva has a fully fit squad to choose from.

Top scorers: Hatters: Elijah Adebayo (17). Cottagers: Aleksander Mitrovic (41).

Milestones: Midfielder Robert Snodgrass will make his 550th senior club appearance if he features against Fulham.

The 34-year-old started out at Livingston, with spells at Stirling, Leeds, Norwich, Hull, West Ham, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion, moving to Luton in February, playing seven games so far.

Man in the middle: Tim Robinson – will be his fifth Luton game this term, having taken the Hatters for the 3-2 defeat against WBA, plus the 2-1 loss at Bournemouth, also having the 3-1 victory over Middlesbrough, along with the 2-0 success at Reading.

The official has had 35 games in total, with 148 yellows and six reds so far, although didn't send off Sam Johnstone for his challenge on Jordan Clark at the Hawthorns back in August.

Refereed Town three times last term, the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United in the Carabao Cup, a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest, sending off the visitors Nikolas Ioannou and then the 2-0 home defeat to Cardiff.

Prior to last campaign, he had the whistle for six Luton matches, the Hatters winning just once, with two draws and three defeats.

Assistant referees are Andrew Fox and Nigel Lugg, with the fourth official John Busby.

In charge: Marco Silva - 44-year-old played for a number of clubs in his home country of Portugal during his playing days, spending the most amount of time at second division Estoril, whom he finished his career with in January 2011.

Was appointed director of football at the club, swiftly replacing Vinícius Eutrópio as manager, and masterminding their route back to the top flight.

Left his position in May 2014 to become Sporting CP boss, as he then went to Greek side Olympiacos a year later.

Led the team to the title, but departed in June 2016 for personal reasons and was out of work for six months, until coming to England, named head coach of Hull City in January 2017.

Couldn't keep the side in the Premier League, resigning in May 2017, and moved to Watford just a few days later.

Was sacked by the Hornets in January 2018, named Everton manager in May of that year, but was dismissed in December 2019, his next opportunity coming up when appointed in charge at Craven Cottage in July 2021.

View from the opposition: Boss Marco Silva speaking to the club’s official website - “It's a tough game.

“The game we had on Tuesday (against Nottingham Forest) was a good example, they are still fighting, they are doing everything at more than 100 per cent sometimes.

“Nottingham Forest is a good example, and it will be the same against Luton.

“They will come here to match us and look to get the points, because they need the points.

“But we want and need the points as well. We are going to look at ourselves.

“I am not happy with the last results at all, our players aren’t as well, and we have to show a reaction.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, we have to show a reaction because the number of defeats in the last few games is not a normal thing for us.”

Managerial record: Town chief Nathan Jones has a good record against Fulham, leading Brighton to a 2-0 victory at Craven Cottage when caretaker manager of the Seagulls back in December 2014.

Also beat the Cottagers 2-0 when in charge of Stoke before a 1-1 draw at Kenilworth Road with Luton earlier this season, the only time that he has faced Marco Silva and the Portuguese has taken on the Hatters.

One to watch: Fabio Carvalho – Born in Portugal, the 19-year-old was part of Benfica's academy before moving with his family to London in 2013, heading to Fulham two years later.

Made his Premier League debut last term, going on to play four games, scoring once, but this season has blossomed into a first team regular.

Scored in three games in a row back in August, as he had netted four times in his first eight matches, and has gone to on to reach double figures when on target in the 3-0 win over Preston, adding seven assists too.

Was tipped to move to Premier League Liverpool during the January transfer window, but time ran out, although the Reds are expected to announce a deal for the winger in the summer at around £5m plus add-ons.

Friendly faces: Town striker Elijah Adebayo came through the ranks at Fulham, joining at U9 level.

Had loan spells with Slough, Bognor Regis, Cheltenham, Swindon and Stevenage during his time at Craven Cottage, as he netted two goals in three Checkatrade Trophy games, but was released at the end 2018–19 season without making a first team appearance.

Headed to Walsall, signed by Luton for an undisclosed fee in January 2021 and it has proved a superb piece of business so far, with 22 goals in 59 matches.

Luton's head of scouting operations Phil Chapple had a spell at Fulham where he worked as chief scout.

For the Cottagers, defender Alfie Mawson played 45 minutes on loan for the Hatters, the first half of a 5-0 win at Alfreton, back in December 2013, after joining from Brentford.

He had further stints at Welling and Wycombe, joining Barnsley in June 2015.

Made a £5m move to Swansea in 2016, before Fulham shelled out £20m for him in August 2018.

Loaned to Bristol City last season, as he has played eight times for Fulham this term, the last in the 1-0 win at Peterborough back in November, making 52 appearances in total for the Cottagers so far.

Played for both: Alan Slough - came through at Luton in 1965, going on to feature 312 times in eight years, sitting 21st in the all-time appearance list for the club, scoring 32 goals too.

Was a mainstay in the promotion seasons of 1967-68 and 1969-70 in a glorious spell for the club which saw them rise from the depths of the Fourth Division to the fringes of the top flight.

Joined Fulham in 1973, with another over 150 games for the Cottagers as he was signed by Peterborough for £25,000 in 1977.

Reached a century for the Posh, as he finished his career at Millwall and then Weymouth, sadly passing away last year aged 73.

We've got form: Craven Cottage had been a ground that Town had travelled to in pure trepidation, as when games started with an FA Cup clash in 1903, it the Hatters 67 years and until the 23rd time of asking to enjoy that winning feeling.

Following 17 defeats and five draws, it was striker Malcolm MacDonald who was the hero, his goal settling a Division Three clash in 1970.

Losing five of their next seven visits, Luton finally went on a good run, as after a 3-1 Division Two victory in 1979, they made it six games unbeaten, a sequence spanning 40 years, until beaten in their last outing back in 2019.

In total, Hatters have won six, drawn eight and lost 23 of their 37 matches, scoring 36 goals and conceding 73.

Last time out: Luton were beaten by an Aleksander Mitrovic hat-trick as they went down to a 3-2 defeat at Craven Cottage during their first season back in the Championship in October 2019.

The Serbian put the hosts 2-0 ahead with 53 minutes gone, before Dan Potts' header from Izzy Brown's free kick on the hour pulled one back.

Mitrovic then completed his treble on 67 minutes, as although Kazenga LuaLua scored in the final seconds, turning home Luke Bolton's cross, the Cottagers held on.

Hatters: James Shea, James Bree (Luke Bolton 70), Dan Potts, Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley, Martin Cranie, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Izzy Brown, Harry Cornick (Callum McManaman 78), James Collins (Kazenga LuaLua 78).

Subs not used: Simon Sluga, Lloyd Jones, Andrew Shinnie, Jacob Butterfield.

Referee: John Brooks.

Attendance: 18,082.