Having got their season up and running with a draw at Sheffield United two weeks ago, Fulham once again slumped to defeat in their most recent assignment, losing to Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage last Saturday.
But the Cottagers have a chance to expand their points tally on Monday evening as fellow newly promoted side and early strugglers West Bromwich Albion visit London in what will surely go down as one of the most important and decisive matches of the Premier League campaign so far.
Fulham manager Scott Parker addressed the media before the match — here are his most noteworthy quotes, as per the official Fulham website.
On a crunch clash
Of course, 2020/21 is only six games young and the mathematical possibility of survival will remain intact for some time yet. But the psychological blow of losing such a crucial fixture will be harrowing, and while there are several teams in a similar predicament at the moment, it is those that fail to win in their next few matches that face being cut adrift from the rest of the pack.
Parker is fully aware of the importance of this game, of the significant boost that could be provided by victory and of the disaster of defeat.
“We are only six games in but, saying that, it’s a big, big game for us,” he admitted. “We sit on one point, West Brom sit on three, and there are other teams who are in and around it down there, so of course this is huge for us.”
On the opposition
They were promoted automatically from the Championship last season, losing just seven out of 46 games and finishing two points better off than their opponents here but ten behind eventual champions Leeds United. However, life has not been so rosy for West Brom so far in the Premier League.
They’ve drawn three and lost three of their opening six matches but will be hoping to put an end to their winless run, and Parker believes they’ll pose an even tougher challenge for his team than they did last year.
“West Brom have spent a bit of money, they’ve brought in a couple of front half players, one who was there last year, and I think we’ve all seen his quality — a fantastic player in [Grady] Diangana. The boy [Karlan] Grant has added some experience as well, so they’re definitely an improved team.”
On the opponent in the dugout
Contrary to Parker — whose only previous experience of Premier League management prior to this season came in dire circumstances during Fulham’s relegation from the top flight in 2018/19 — West Brom manager Slaven Bilic is a man well-versed in the rigours and demands of this division.
The Croatian enjoyed a successful spell with West Ham United, helping the Hammers challenge for European football in his two years at the club for which he once played, but is facing a more difficult test at The Hawthorns this time around.
In fact, Parker sees parallels between his side's predicament and that of Bilic’s men, and believes that will only add to the magnitude of the contest.
“I think Slaven will be the same this year in terms of where he sees his team, it’s probably where we are," Parker noted. "So this is a real big game for both teams because you want to try and take some points off each other.”
On more difficult fixtures to come
Without detracting from the importance of Monday evening’s match, it’s important to remember that every match provides an opportunity to win points, and in that respect they are all equally significant.
Parker will be keen to ensure his side don’t get disheartened in the event of defeat; there will be plenty more opportunities to right their wrongs and set the record straight. But, nonetheless, oh what a relief it would be to secure victory here.
“I don’t think we’ll lose sight that after this we’ve got West Ham, Everton, Leicester, Man City — they’re all going to be big. Every game is massive for us, but this one has got a little bit extra.
“I think it’s got the makings of a very good game, I sense it will be a very tight and a very good one.”