May 3, 2014, 9:34 AM EDT
Fulham may no longer be sitting dead last in the Premier League, but they still absolutely must win against Stoke City today (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).
The match at the Britannia is vital to the Cottagers’ safety: If Fulham lose and both Norwich City and Sunderland win, the end of the weekend will see Fulham relegated. Considering Stoke are already safe, will they be nice enough to throw the visitors a bone?
Probably not. The Potters, currently tenth, are hoping for their highest finish in the league, as well as their highest points total. Mark Hughes has his pride, and he wants the numbers to reinforce the work he’s done growing the side – and moving him away from the dour Pulis-ball previously plaguing the squad.
Stoke fell 1-0 to Tottenham last week, unable to overcome a goal from Danny Rose after Ryan Shawcross was sent off with a second yellow. Obviously Shawcross is out this week, replaced by Erik Pieters. Hughes also makes another change, dropping Peter Crouch to the bench in favor of using Stephen Ireland and Peter Odemwingie up top, and putting Oussama Assaidi into the midfield.
For Fulham, it’s another shuffle for Felix Magath. After playing a 3-5-1-1 last week, he looks to be using a 4-5-1 this week, with Darren Bent getting a (surprising) start up top as the loan striker. Costly forward Kostas Mitroglou remains on the bench, as does Ashkan Dejagah, who scored Fulham’s opener last week.
Stoke City: Begovic; Pieters, Muniesa, Wilson, Cameron; Arnautovic, Nzonzi, Whelan, Assaidi; Ireland, Odemwingie
Subs: Sorensen; Palacios, Adam, Walters, Crouch, Etherington, Wilkinson
Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga, Hangeland, Burn, Riise; Holtby, Parker, Sidwell, Diarra, Richardson; Bent
Subs: Joronen, Kasami, Mitroglou, Dejagah, Woodrow, Riether, Amorebieta
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