Fulham. Who are they? What do they do? Before a game is played, they sit fifth in the Premier League on alphabetical order and over 38 games they win a few, draw a few and lose a few more before settling into obscurity.
Barring the odd bit of Berba-rotica, they’re generally a side I’d do my best to avoid watching. They’re like a Victoria sponge – quintessentially English, plain, but with a small bit of flavour to distract from the politeness.
They’re inoffensive. They wouldn’t push in a queue and when they visit other peoples’ homes, they always wipe their feet before entering.
Last week against Manchester United in the FA Cup, for example, the Cottagers turned up, rolled over and went home with a pat on the back from Fergie, just like the week before, when they meekly surrendered away to Manchester City.
If the Premier League suddenly went global with fixtures being played in Beijing, Beirut and Baghdad, then Fulham would be knackered.
They’re about as useful on the road as a Lada 110 and if it weren’t for a decent enough home record, then they’d be dusting down the Championship A-Z.
But luckily enough, they are useful at Craven Cottage, which is also curious as it’s not exactly one of the most intimidating arenas in world football.
Yet even their form on their own patch has largely been indifferent. Already this season they’ve been beaten by Swansea, Sunderland, Tottenham and City, and drawn with Wigan, Blackpool, Southampton and Everton.
But against all logic, in their last eight games against United, City, Chelsea and Arsenal at the Cottage, they’ve only come off second best in two of those fixtures — one apiece to each of the Manchester clubs.
So how will the Cottagers fare when United revisit this part of London on Saturday tea-time?
Given that the table-toppers have won ten of their last 12 league outings it’s no surprise that bwin’s 3way football betting market has them down as strong 57/100 favourites, with the draw next at 3/1 and the hosts bringing up the rear at 9/2.
But I don’t think this will be as cut and dried as those odds suggest.
For a start, United have drawn three of their last four on the road and somehow escaped with three points despite being well outplayed by Southampton at home on Wednesday night.
They were rampant in a 5-0 win here last season but aside from that, they’ve largely struggled at Fulham – with a draw and two losses preceding that victory.
Against West Ham during the week, Fulham’s dangerous attacking quartet of Damien Duff, Bryan Ruiz, Dimitar Berbatov and Hugo Rodallega all clicked and if they can do likewise against Fergie’s men, I can certainly see them scoring and running the Reds close.
Fulham are 11/25 to score during the match but if you fancy that, you may as well double it with both to score at 3/5, yet if you reckon the Cottagers can cause the Reds further angst, get on them to score over 1.5 goals at 11/5.
Yet predicting what United will do is almost as troublesome as sussing out Fulham, even if my recommendation to back a 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 win over Southampton came up trumps at 11/4.
They did their best to blow a lead against the Saints and once again fell behind early to a Jay Rodriguez strike.
If you think Fulham can inflict the same fate then Martin Jol’s side to score first is 19/10, but even if they do, I still think United will have too much for them.
It’s worth considering that Fergie’s mob can move ten points clear of City with the champions due to face Liverpool at the Etihad on Sunday.
United may huff and puff at times but when there’s a chance to go for the throat, the geriatric tyrant won’t miss out. He’ll have his strongest side sent out with their ears ringing and as a consequence, I think it’ll be United who claim the honours.
In the last two games I’ve covered United (against Southampton and Sunderland), my selected bet has been for goals at both ends and given I reckon Fulham will register, I’m going for the hat-trick, especially considering the multiple correct score of 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 to the visitors is exceptionally good value at 31/10.
I’ll be sticking a few quid on that and new customers registering with bwin are entitled to do the same with their free £20 bet, which could be turned into £82 if you follow my lead and that punt comes in.
You can also nearly quadruple your money at 27/10 if you think United will win both halves and one bet that’s worth boosting your accumulator with is for the visitors to score in both halves at 23/20.
For more of the same, follow me on Twitter @bainesyDiego10