Championship leaders Fulham visit Preston North End in the second tier's Saturday lunchtime kick-off. Michael Beardmore has a preview and best bets at 13/8 and 15/4.
1pt Fulham to keep a clean sheet at 13/8 (General)
1pt Neeskens Kebano to score anytime at 15/4 (William Hill)
All good things have to come to an end somewhere, so the saying goes, and that was the case for Sky Bet Championship leaders Fulham in midweek as their seven-game winning streak was halted by a goalless draw at home to bottom side Derby.
Nonetheless, the Cottagers still boast an aggregate score of 25-2 since returning from the October international break, numbers which will send a shiver up the back of those of a Preston persuasion ahead of Saturday lunchtime’s meeting at Deepdale.
North End have pulled up few trees this season under new boss Frankie McAvoy but have also stayed well out of trouble, currently 14th, helped by a trio of impressive 2-1 wins over Coventry, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough in recent weeks.
On paper, this should be a routine away win but Fulham’s availability issues – not least those of 21-goal top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic – make the game a potential punting banana skin.
The Serbian missed the Derby draw, along with midfielder Tom Cairney, with both said to be suffering from a fever that has also affected other members of the squad.
As a result, it is tough to predict the personnel and strength of Fulham’s starting line-up – but if they are back to a full complement on Saturday, the 5/6 generally available about an away win will appeal.
Given there is fewer than 72 hours between Wednesday’s game and this one, however, the quick turnaround throws significant doubt over whether Mitrovic will feature – and, as shown against Derby, that could well have a real impact on the result.
If he’s fit, this could be a comfortable Cottagers win. If not, it’s tricky to tell – thus not only is the outcome best avoided from a punting perspective until team news is revealed, so are under/over markets.
Should Mitrovic be absent again, that opens up the market for other Fulham finishers and the one I’m keen to get onside is Neeskens Kebano, who has hit his own purple patch recently.
The DR Congo wide man has clearly taken boss Marco Silva’s words to heart about not relying on Mitrovic to bail them out with goals – Kebano has contributed 18 shots in his last seven games, scoring four times.
Those goals have come with Mitrovic in the side so 15/4 with William Hill on KEBANO TO SCORE ANYTIME has value whether the Serbian returns or not.
A facet of Fulham that has gone under the radar this season is their solidity at the back – while Mitrovic has hogged the headlines, the Cottagers also boast the division’s second-best defensive record in terms of goals conceded and expected goals against (xGA), behind Bournemouth on both counts.
Silva’s side have kept six clean sheets in their past eight games and that’s no fluke when you look at their xGA figures for those matches – 0.22, 1.30, 1.29, 0.27, 1.21, 0.46, 1.16, 0.63. That basically means in four of those games their opponents hardly had a sniff.
Given Preston are not posting particularly impressive attacking numbers – averaging just 1.09 xG per game - the 13/8 available on FULHAM TO KEEP A CLEAN SHEET is inviting given their recent habit of securing shutouts, including three straight on the road.
Score prediction: Preston 0-1 Fulham (Sky Bet odds: 6/1)
Odds correct 1230 GMT (25/11/21)
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