FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns to preview Wednesday night's Championship clash between Bristol City and Fulham.
Bristol City v Fulham | Wednesday 20:00
Bristol City destroyed Fulham 4-0 when the two teams locked horns back in September, a result that saw the Robins flying high in fifth having started the campaign with an impressive W6-D2-L3 return.
However, the wheels have spectacularly fallen off the City bus since and the Cidermen find themselves entrenched in a relegation battle.
An eight-match losing streak came to a close at the end of January but the Robins have only accrued 12 points from a possible 60 (W3-D3-L14) since October’s international break with the club keeping only three clean sheets in that 20-match sample.
Johnson under pressure
Burton’s recent resurgence has pushed the Brewers above City and the gap between the Robins and the drop-zone was down to just two points before Tuesday night’s action. It’s fair to say, pressure is piling on Lee Johnson.
Last week’s defeat to Leeds was the last straw for one Bristol City fan. An online petition for Johnson to be sacked was set up and over 400 fans signed but a surprising majority remain behind the Robins boss despite numerous reservations and criticisms.
Johnson’s close connection to the club has earned him a stay of execution but his constant tinkering with personnel and approach has caused consternation amongst the supporters. And the team spirit that was so evident during a memorable promotion charge from League One has long since dissipated.
Injury news against the Robins
To make matters worse, the hosts will be without top scorer Tammy Abraham on Wednesday night after the on-loan striker injured his thigh during the first-half of last Tuesday's defeat at Leeds. Abraham has scored 21 goals in 35 games for this season, two of which came at Fulham.
Full-back Mark Little came off in the same against Leeds and looks like being replaced by the returning Adam Matthews whilst midfielder Korey Smith may also return to the squad following injury as Bristol City prepare for the first of seven Championship fixtures in a hectic 24-day spell.
The hosts did have their feet up at the weekend and will be hoping to revisit their mini-revival – five points in three games following a club-record eight straight defeats – that proceeded the Lees defeat. And with seven of the Robins’ nine league victories arriving at Ashton Gate, there’s hope.
Cold hard facts against the hosts
But cold hard facts go against them here. City have shipped at least two goals in eight of their past 10 outings, have won once in 12 and been beaten in five of their past eight games on home soil. Fixtures against the top-half have returned W2-D4-L11.
The top-two in the division have both managed to shutout the Robins at Ashton Gate but only Brentford have joined the leading pair in silencing City here.
And so with 10/31 (32%) of defeats arriving alongside Both Teams To Score, the 16/5 (888) offered on a repeat looks too large to ignore here with the odds suggesting just a 24% chance of landing.
Michael Madl, Lucas Piazon and Chris Martin are among those hoping for recalls after sitting on the bench for the FA Cup thrashing at home to Spurs on Sunday, a result that was preceded by three wins in four Championship outings for the Fulham.
Fulham prioritising promotion
Head coach Slavisa Jokanovic made no secret of his priority before the cup contest and with full-back Ryan Fredericks available again after serving a three-match ban, plus teenage prospect Ryan Sessegnon in contention for a starting berth, the Cottagers are well-stocked with offensive quality in defensive areas.
The Londoners aren’t often involved in high-scoring skirmishes away from the capital – only three of their past 14 away league days have featured more than two goals but there’s more than enough wriggle-room to believe Bristol City can get on the scoresheet in defeat.
Fulham have W6-D5-L4 on their travels this term, keeping only five clean sheets. Exclude away results against the top-six and that return reads W6-D4-L2 with Jokanovic’s charges notching twice or more in 6/12 (50%) road trips, wining by two goals or more on four occasions.
A slow start
If the visitors are on-song, they’ll be hard to stop here and odds certainly appeal for Fulham to collect maximum points in a goal-heavy game. And it might also be worth backing the action to really get going after the half-time interval.
Collectively, the second-half has been the Highest Scoring Half in 19/30 (63%) respective home/away games involving these two teams with only 25 (34%) of 74 goals arriving before the break. We can back the second-half to see the most goals at an appetising 21/20 with Sportingbet.
Bristol City v Fulham – Fulham to win and Both Teams To Score (16/5 888)
Bristol City v Fulham – Second-half highest scoring (21/20 Sportingbet)