Fulham begin life back in the Sky Bet Championship as they take on Middlesbrough at Craven Cottage in Sunday’s big second-tier match.
Fulham enter this season back in the Championship after just one season back in the top-flight and are under new management, as Marco Silva replaces Scott Parker in the dugout.
Boro enter their fifth season in the Championship and will be looking to build on a tough campaign last season, which saw the Teessiders finish tenth in their first campaign under Neil Warnock.
Tom Cairney is ruled out for Fulham as he continues to recover from a knee injury which kept him sidelined in the closing months of last season.
Terence Kongolo is also still absent after a knee injury ruled him out since mid-April.
Middlesbrough could be without Marcus Tavernier who is struggling to recover from a hamstring injury suffered during pre-season.
Marc Bola however could feature after recovering from a hernia injury which he has struggled with in recent weeks.
Hayden Coulson (Coronavirus) and Sammy Ameobi (knee) are ruled out but Isaiah Jones is a doubt, after suffering a “smashed” nose in Boro’s final pre-season friendly at Rotherham according to Warnock.
- Fulham have lost two of their last ten league meetings against Middlesbrough (W4, D4, L2).
- Middlesbrough have won just one of their last five league visits to Craven Cottage (W1, D1, L3).
- Fulham have won just one of their last five opening matches to a new season (W1, D1, L3).
- Boro are winless in their last six opening weekend fixtures (D4, L2), since defeating Birmingham City 2-0 in August 2014.
- Fulham are unbeaten in three of their last four home matches refereed by Keith Stroud (W2, D1, L1).
Having contested just two pre-season friendlies, it is difficult to predict how Fulham could play because they could turn up rusty in the opening stages, which is where Middlesbrough should look to pounce if possible unless the Cottagers turn up firing on their strong attacking cylinders.
A lack of goals coupled with often poor defending though was Fulham’s biggest issue in the Premier League last season, so Marco Silva has a tough task on his hands to get the team firing quickly despite retaining the core squad with some excellent additions in Paolo Gazzaniga and Harry Wilson.
Middlesbrough meanwhile enjoyed a strong pre-season with considerable improvement in attack but to concede against Saltash, Plymouth and York City was disappointing, yet important in development and understanding of the club’s progress after an improved campaign last season on their 2019-20 woes.
On that note, I can see an interesting match here between two teams who will certainly be eying the play-offs as a minimum reward at end of season, yet Boro haven’t exactly shone at Fulham or on opening weekends of new season for that matter so am going for a home win.
Prediction: Fulham 2-1 Middlesbrough
Result: Fulham 1-1 Middlesbrough