Premier League Preview: Manchester City v Fulham
Rock-bottom Fulham need to pull off one of the upsets of the season if they are to put a dent in Manchester City's Premier League title bid.
Felix Magath earned his first win as Fulham head coach with a 1-0 triumph over Newcastle United last weekend, ending the club's nine-match winless streak in the league.
But Manuel Pellegrini's high-flying City will pose an altogether more difficult challenge at the Etihad Stadium this Saturday.
The Chilean has seen his side dumped out of the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League this month, but the top-flight crown remains very much within City's reach.
Chelsea have pulled clear at the top, but City have games in hand and their home record is exceptional.
A return of 36 points from 13 home matches is impressive enough, but factor in the 43 goals scored, with only nine conceded, and the size of the task facing the visitors is clear.
Furthermore, Fulham have lost seven of the last 10 meetings against City, none of which they have won.
Magath might cling to the hope that the hosts will be distracted by Tuesday's trip to Old Trafford to take on bitter rivals Manchester United, but midfielder Fernandinho insists that he and his team-mates will remain focussed on the game at hand.
"Right now we need to think just about Fulham, to beat them at home and play well, so we can take some confidence into next Tuesday against United," the Brazilian told the Daily Star.
"Maybe we will start to talk about them (United) on Monday, but now it's all about Fulham.
"People might think Fulham will be an easy game, but there are no easy games – every game is like a final for us."
City have regularly put teams to the sword this season, but Pellegrini will be concerned about the goals drying up – the club have netted just three in their last four Premier League matches.
Sergio Aguero's hamstring problems have hurt City, with the Argentina striker having been absent from their league campaign since January.
He will miss this clash, but fellow forward Stevan Jovetic could return from a hamstring problem of his own.
Captain Vincent Kompany, who scored at both ends in City's 4-2 win at Craven Cottage in December, is banned after being sent off at Hull City last week and fellow defenders Matija Nastasic (knee) and Micah Richards (muscle injury) are doubtful.
Despite the enormity of the challenge, Fulham coach Magath has faith.
"You always have a chance, even in such difficult games as Man City," Magath said.
"I think Man City now has the chance to go for the championship and that is what they will have in mind, so I think it will not be so easy for us to win there.
"(But) I think we can defend very well and so if we make it difficult for Man City to score then I think we'll get a chance to score ourselves."
Fulham will be without defender Dan Burn and midfielder Ashkan Dejagah (muscle injuries), as well as forward Kostas Mitroglou (knee).
Scott Parker also remains on the sidelines with a knee injury, but Magath is hopeful that he will return for their home fixture against Everton next Sunday.