Both Fulham and Bristol City will be hopeful their current league position is mirrored come May 2020.
The sides are separated by just three points, with Scott Parker’s Fulham third in the table and Lee Johnson’s Bristol City sitting fifth.
With both sides tipped to be promotion candidates before the season kicked off in August, they have done little to damage pre-season predictions.
Fulham are showing very little self-pity in the wake of Premier League relegation last year. Parker’s side are climbing the table and beginning to pose a serious threat to the top two.
Last season City narrowly missed out on the play-off picture, dropping to eight in the table in a crucial stage of campaign. The Robins will be hoping they can go one better this year and threaten promotion to the topflight for the first time in over twenty years.
After a contentious start to the season, pressure began to mount on the Fulham boss. Many fans were left questioning whether the style of play and supposedly tedious tactics were enough to see his side immediately bounce back to the topflight.
However, since a devastating 3-0 home loss to Hull City, Parker has emended his methods and the London side have taken all twelve points from their past four games.
Last time out, Fulham edged a narrow affair against Swansea City to win 2-1 at the Liberty Stadium. Whilst earlier in the season it appeared Parker’s side had the unwanted ability of rolling over to offer a weak underbelly, Fulham are now showing the strength needed to be serious promotion contenders.
With one of the strongest squads in the division, promotion for Fulham is more than needed, it is expected. With their current upturn in form coming before a busy winter period, the London side will be hoping to carry the momentum into the new year.
Bristol City have been in amongst the play-off places throughout the season. With just three losses to their name, it’s a failure to win games that’s contributing to inconsistency for the Robins.
Last time out they breezed past a poor Huddersfield Town side, scoring five in the process.
They sit eleventh in the current form table over the past six games, winning two, drawing three, and recording just one loss which was away to top of the league West Bromwich Albion.
Johnson is the longest serving Championship manager, improving City each season he has been at the helm. Last season marked the clubs highest second tier finish since they reached the play-off final back in 2008.
If Bristol can maintain form that keeps them inside the top six, the Robins will be likely to continue surpassing the previous years league finish.
What to Expect
Under Parker, Fulham’s style of play has become somewhat predictable. There average possession total of 61% is easily the highest in the league and with their pass accuracy reaching 87% its clear Parker prefers patient, short passing football.
This will not trouble Bristol City however, with Lee Johnson’s side averaging below 50% possession. This is reinforced with the Robins averaging seventy-eight long passes per game, the third most in the division, highlighting contrasting styles of play between two sides.
Bristol City have been fairly poor defensively this season. Their twenty-seven goals against is the joint most in the top half and with their side conceding roughly fifteen shots per game they always look likely to be carved open.
This will favour a Fulham side who have one of the most potent attacks in the division, averaging nearly fourteen shots per game.
For Bristol City, captain Josh Brownhill tends to carry his sides through difficult periods, yet the key battle on Saturday will be between Mitrovic and defender Ashley Williams.
At 35-years-old Williams is proving himself to still be a consistent defender at a high level. The centre-back found the net last time out, showing he can offer a threat at either end of the pitch.
However, it’s Williams defensive capabilities that will be key at the weekend; his two blocks and five clearances per game may be the difference in keeping Fulham’s star striker quiet as the away side look to end their oppositions winning run.
Whilst Fulham’s side is bolstered with Premier League talent throughout, one man stands-out from the crowd as playing a league way below his own level.
Aleksander Mitrovic is on fifteen goals from just eighteen appearances this season, leading the division in goals scored. The Serbian international signed for Fulham for over £20 million last summer and his performance this season reinforce his hefty price tag.
The striker has four shots per game and wins as many aerial duels, illustrating himself as powerful and problematic enigma up top.