Swansea City-Fulham Preview
By RYAN WILLOX
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Fulham host Swansea on Saturday at Craven Cottage in a meeting of sides seeking to rediscover some of their devastating early season form.
These sides were surprise joint league leaders on the first day of the season after both recorded unexpected 5-0 victories. Now at the half-way point they have accounted for just nine further wins from a combined 36 league games.
Swansea (6-7-6), are actually six points better off that they were at this stage last season. They are in ninth place, ahead of Liverpool and Norwich on goal difference, but are seeking a first win in five and have only scored once in their last three matches.
"It's a moment to stop and reflect," said Swans manager Michael Laudrup. "We've got 25 points and that is more than I thought we would have at this stage. Nearly half the players who have started most of the games were new players this year.
"They have had to adapt and it's great to have the points we have at this stage of the season. For now the target is to reach 40 points and when we do that we can start to look at another target with however games we have left."
Matters may not be helped by an injury picked up by striker Michu. The Spaniard who is the Premier League's joint top scorer this season with 13, limped out of the Swans' 0-0 Boxing Day draw with Reading and is doubtful with an ankle injury.
Opponents Fulham (5-6-8) lie in 14th, perilously close to the relegation zone, and have only won once in their last 11 Premier League games. They were able to welcome back influential forward Bryan Ruiz, who was a half-time substitute in the 1-1 draw with Southampton, on Boxing Day after missing six games through injury.
"Every team has bad moments," Ruiz told the club website. "At the beginning of the season we were playing really good football but we're having a tough period now. We have to stay together and get back on track.
"Now we have to play again on Saturday and hopefully we will do our best to get three points. Swansea will be tough, we know that. They really like to play good football but so do we and if we can get back to our best, we can win."
Only the Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Liverpool have completed more passes than Swansea this season (7,080). Fulham are 8th of the 20 Premier League teams, having completed 6,230 passes through 19 games.
Swansea won both meetings last season without conceding a goal. In the corresponding fixture last March, two Gylfi Sigurdsson strikes and a late Joe Allen goal gave the Swans a 3-0 win at the Cottage. Prior to that victory, Swansea had not won away to Fulham since 1980.
Swansea took the home match at the Liberty Stadium 2-0 through goals by Scott Sinclair and Danny Graham.
Those were the first games between the sides since the 1996-97 season. It is a sign of how far these teams have progressed that those meetings, both Fulham victories were in Division Three, then the fourth tier of English football. Fulham lead the all-time series with 30 wins to Swansea's 21 and there have been 10 draws since the clubs first met in the old Division Two in 1925.
Updated December 27, 2012