Fulham v Manchester United: Make it Mitrovic

Claudio Ranieri - Fulham
Claudio Ranieri's men are in desperate need of a result
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Andy Schooler is backing Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic to take advantage of what is set to be a reshuffled Manchester United team at Craven Cottage in the early game Saturday...

"I’d expect Fulham to play to their strengths in this one and that’s getting balls into the box for Mitrovic to do his stuff."

Back Mitrovic to score first for Fulham @ 13/5

Fulham v Manchester United
Saturday, 12:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event

It's getting towards do-or-die time for Fulham, who head into this match seven points from safety.

Wretched away form is a major reason they find themselves so far from 17th place for they've actually been OK at home.

Since Claudio Ranieri's arrival in November, the Cottagers have won three and drawn two of their seven home league games with one of the losses coming in the last-minute after a dogged performance against Spurs. Across the season as a whole, they've won more home points than Leicester.

The problem now is that this match begins a run of tough home fixtures - after United depart, next through the entrance will be Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

There is some good news though. Andre Schurrle is available again after missing last week's miserable defeat at Crystal Palace, while Cyrus Christie, who limped off in that match, is also fit.

However, Ranieri has confirmed that new signings Lazar Markovic and Harvard Nordveit won't start, the pair still lacking match fitness.

French focus?

As for Manchester United, the key thing to bear in mind ahead of this one is the fact that they will play host to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday in the Champions League.

This is therefore where the real work begins for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Yes, he's done virtually everything asked of him so far with nine wins from 10 games in all competitions, but the return of the Champions League adds an extra dimension in terms of protecting/resting players and prioritising who in the squad does what.

Remember, United are in the thick of a battle to secure a place in the top four domestically.

Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba have raised their level considerably since the arrival of Solskjaer to become crucial cogs in his team but will either start here?

The doubt is a shame, for Rashford has scored in seven of his last 10 league games and could well be worth backing at 6/5 to score at any time if he does start, while a similar argument can be made for Pogba (scored in four of his last eight, six goals in all). He's 7/5 in the same market. However, I can see both missing out - and others.

At this stage it is very much worth pointing out that the only time Solskjaer made wholesale changes for a league game, it resulted in the only match he hasn't won - Burnley leading for long periods at Old Trafford but eventually having to settle for a 2-2 draw.

That performance gave a hint that there do remain issues at United - it wasn't that long ago that all-comers were labelling the squad not good enough to compete with the best and outside the 'best XI' problems may still remain.

United short enough

It is this factor which means I'm loath to get involved with United at short prices - they are [1.69] to win the game with Fulham [5.9] and the draw [4.4].

In terms of quality levels, United should still have too much for a Fulham side who have conceded a league-high 55 goals, nine more than anyone else.

But that supposed quality has gone missing a lot for United this season, most worryingly in that Burnley game.
Attacking-wise, I've long felt Fulham have much to offer with Aleksandar Mitrovic offering a real threat against any opponent.

I'd expect Fulham to play to their strengths in this one and that's getting balls into the box for Mitrovic to do his stuff. The Serb has 10 league goals to his name and should be able to test the reborn Victor Lindelof at the heart of the visitors' defence - that's, of course, if the Swede starts.

Goals expected

It's certainly a game in which goals should be expected.

United have scored at least two in 17 of their 25 league games, while Fulham have let in at least two in their last five.

Solskjaer's men have conceded against Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth and Brighton so there seems every reason to expect both teams to score ([1.74]). Over 2.5 goals is [1.66].

If you are looking to back United, perhaps taking them at [2.6] in the HT/FT market is a route to profit - they've led at the break in six of their eight league wins under Solskjaer.

However, as already suggested, that's not for me.

Mitro's goal power

I'm more interested in the 13/5 about Mitrovic scoring his side's first goal.

That's something Fulham's top scorer, who has netted 40% of their league goals, has managed to do in three of the seven home games since Ranieri took the reins.

Against a United team which isn't likely to be their first choice XI, he's more than capable of causing problems and finding the target in what is a very important game for his side.

Same Game Multi

Jean-Michael Seri is worth a mention here - I almost put him up as single tip in the 'to be carded' market at 7/2.

Seri has been booked in six of his last nine starts and with his manager demanding another competitive battle in this one, expect him to be fighting hard in the midfield.

I'll add in Fulham to have the most corners, something they've managed in five of their last six games (all competitions).

A final leg of over 2.5 goals makes the treble worth 27.73.

Opta fact

Fulham have won just three of their 27 Premier League games against Manchester United (D5 L19), with two of those victories coming at Craven Cottage in 2009.

Premier League Predictor: Correct-score verdicts for this weekend's games

Andy Schooler's P/L 2018/19

Staked: 45pts
Returned: 37.4pts
P/L: -7.6pts

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