Wednesday night sees a London derby between two of the Premier League’s most out-of-form sides at Craven Cottage as Fulham host West Ham United.
As autumn gave way to winter, both sides were sat comfortably in the top half of the table, but they have tailed off alarmingly since.
Fulham have tasted victory just once in their last eight league and cup home matches – a sequence that stretches back to October.
The Hammers, for their part, are winless in seven matches on the road, losing six along the way, and they have netted a league-low of six goals all season away from the bubbly atmosphere of Upton Park.
Fulham’s slide down the league has seen them drop towards a relegation scrap and their season plumbed new depths last Saturday when they were trounced 4-1 by Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup fourth round.
Martin Jol’s side copped a tirade of criticism after a listless, meek performance and the iron-jawed Dutchman admitted United could easily have scored seven.
West Ham had a free weekend following their FA Cup defeat to United in the third round, but they suffered their own share of embarrassment last Wednesday night as they capitulated 5-1 at Arsenal to record their worst defeat of the season.
The Hammers led through Jack Collison’s early finish, but four goals conceded in ten second-half minutes left Sam Allardyce furious and the former Bolton boss allegedly called a team meeting at 7am the next day.
Despite the aforementioned formbook, Fulham are favourites at odds of 5/4 in bwin’s 3way market, with West Ham outsiders at 11/5 and the draw priced up at 23/10.
While the bookies might be on Fulham’s side, history certainly isn’t. The home side have only beaten West Ham in two of their 17 Premier League meetings and the Hammers have won six of the eight clashes between the two sides at Craven Cottage.
As well as that, Fulham are the only London club not to win a derby this season.
Emmanuel Frimpong could make his debut for the Cottagers after joining on loan from Arsenal, while ex-Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz is available for the away side, though the Hammers’ main talking point has been the future of Mohamed Diame.
The Senegalese midfielder has been linked with Arsenal and Tottenham and the reported £3.5 million release clause in his contract will have given Big Sam plenty of sleepless nights recently.
The Irons’ defensive problems will be an equally pressing concern for Allardyce – his team have only kept one clean sheet in their last 12 league games after keeping five in their opening 11 matches.
Fulham are experiencing similar problems, having conceded in each of their last nine league matches, and with Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz, Kevin Nolan and Carlton Cole on display at Craven Cottage, goals should be the theme again this evening.
The price of 5/1 for a 1-1 draw looks tempting and any new customer using their free £20 bet for signing up to bwin to back that outcome could pocket £120 if successful.
But for the safer play, stick with that 23/10 shout on a draw, as a sharing of the spoils would be a typical result between two sides who are so desperate for maximum points.