Premier League Preview: Fulham v Aston Villa
By Football News
Fulham need at least a draw against Aston Villa on Sunday to avoid setting a new record for their longest losing run in the Premier League.
The Craven Cottage outfit have lost six top-flight games in a row for the first time since 2001-02 - Fulham's first season in the Premier League.
That poor form has already cost Martin Jol his job, with Rene Meulensteen, who had initially been brought in to serve as his Dutch compatriot's assistant, now given the reins.
There were signs of promise in Meulensteen's first game in charge against Tottenham on Wednesday, but Fulham ultimately succumbed to a 2-1 loss after taking a second-half lead.
With Fulham now in the relegation zone, the visit of Paul Lambert's Villa has added importance and the omens are positive for the hosts.
Villa have only won two of the 12 Premier League fixtures between the pair in London, and have not scored in the last two trips.
The overall record in league meetings is remarkably close, with Fulham having claimed 18 wins, Villa 19, while 21 have ended in draws.
At the beginning of November the two sides were level on points in the bottom half of the table, but Lambert has overseen an upturn in form at Villa that has coincided with Fulham's decline.
A five-game unbeaten streak has lifted the Villa Park club into the top 10, nine points clear of this weekend's opponents.
An impressive 3-2 win away at Southampton was Villa's third league triumph on the road this season and they now boast the third best away record in the division, with 12 points from seven games.
That stands in stark contrast to Fulham's home record of four points from seven games, which is the worst in the league.
Centre-back Brede Hangeland could return from a back problem but is unlikely to start for the home side, while full-back Matthew Briggs and forward Hugo Rodallega (both groin) definitely miss out.
Villa have major doubts over captain Ron Vlaar, who was substituted at half-time with a calf injury at St Mary's Stadium, but Joe Bennett (back) could return to bolster the defence.
Winger Charles N'Zogbia (Achilles) and defender Jores Okore (knee) will not play any part.