Fulham without Dembele could still prove dangerous

West Ham look to bounce back from their heavy defeat in Swansea by beating Fulham in Saturday’s London derby

There were many that tipped Fulham to go down this season.

They had let the experienced Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu leave, while star striker Clint Dempsey refused to play after expressing a great need to play for Liverpool instead.

But in two games this season, Martin Jol has already proved that there is life after those three at Craven Cottage.

They opened up their season with a remarkable 5-0 drubbing of Norwich City and then gave Manchester United a huge fright at Old Trafford before going down fighting at 3-2. Though Tuesday’s Capital One Cup defeat at Sheffield Wednesday was certainly a set-back.

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Jol has added to his squad with Hugo Rodallega coming from Wigan Athletic and Sascha Rietler arriving on loan from Cologne, but perhaps the most significant has been Mladen Petric who he signed from Hamburg.

Petric began with two class strikes against hapless Norwich City and also caused problems for Manchester United and he will be the one to watch.

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Moussa Dembele has departed to Spurs to weaken their midfield, but Brian Ruiz has filled Dempsey’s boots adequately so far and Rodallega has waited on the bench.

Last time the two met at Upton Park it was honours even as Freddie Piquionne equalised Dempsey’s opener, though back in 2009 goals from David Di Michele, Mark Noble and Carlton Cole gave West Ham all the points in a 3-1 win.

Fulham’s last victory at Upton Park was in an FA Cup tie back in 2004 when Luis Boa Morte was among their scorers in a 3-0 win.

Both teams sit on three points from two games and Fulham will certainly come along the District Line confident that they can swipe their Oyster Cards on the way back with three points attached.

That could help out the Hammers though, who may be able to hit the Cottagers on the break.

The defeat at Swansea may have knocked a bit of the stuffing out of them, but they certainly shouldn’t lose this live TV game on Saturday.

Then again, they might not win it.

Possible team: Schwarzer, Briggs, Hangeland, Hughes, Riether, Duff, Diarra, Kacaniklik, Petric, Ruiz, Trotta.

Prediction: West Ham 1 Fulham 1

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