Sunday's big match preview

West Ham United v Fulham Sunday, October 4, 3pm Upton Park ROY HODGSON performed miracles at Craven Cottage last season. Not only did he turn John Pantsil into a regular Premier League full- back, which is surely reason enough for a knighthood in itself,

West Ham United v Fulham

Sunday, October 4, 3pm

Upton Park

ROY HODGSON performed miracles at Craven Cottage last season.


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Not only did he turn John Pantsil into a regular Premier League full- back, which is surely reason enough for a knighthood in itself, but he also hauled unfashionable Fulham into the Europa League places for this term.

Why he bothered is something of a mystery, as so far in the competition, he has played predominately a reserve team and though that has been a successful policy so far, just how far they are likely to go with that policy is a matter of conjecture.

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Hodgson was largely quiet in the summer transfer window, with Damien Duff arriving from relegated Newcastle, Jonathan Greening on loan from relegated West Brom, and Bjorn Helge Riise from Norwegian club Lillestrom the only real additions to a squad that benefited hugely last term from a lack of injuries.

So far this campaign, it has been a largely forgettable fair for the Cottagers' fans. They have scored just four goals in the Premier League, letting in six along the way, which hardly makes them the entertainers of the division.

Away from Craven Cottage they have lost at Wolves (2-1) and Aston Villa (2-0), while their only victory was at pointless Portsmouth, where they managed a solitary goal success.

Their form is not as poor as their lowly league position suggests. On Saturday they gave Arsenal a real test at the Cottage, with Andy Johnson and Zoltan Gera only being denied by superb saves from keeper Vito Mannone.

Recent history certainly points in West Ham's favour. They have completed the double over Fulham for the last two seasons, with David Di Michele, a Mark Noble penalty and Carlton Cole more than cancelling out Paul Konchesky's first-half cracker for Sunday's visitors.

Fulham have not won at Upton Park since they crushed the Hammers 3-0 in an FA Cup fifth round replay back in 2004, a result so strange that even Luis Boa Morte found himself on the scoresheet for the west Londoners.

This District Line derby seems to be a vital one for both teams. Fulham's European clash with Basle on Thursday seems unlikely to affect them if they continue to play a shadow team, and the likes of Konchesky, Pantsil and Bobby Zamora will certainly be looking to get one over their old employers for the first time, while Johnson is always a dangerous opponent.

But West Ham are in dire need of the points, and with their injury list shortening and new players beginning to settle in, this may be their big chance.

If things go right from the start, expect a home win.

POSSIBLE TEAM: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Konchesky, Hangeland, Hughes, Etuhu, Greening, Murphy, Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora.

Prediction:

West Ham 3 Fulham 1

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