Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper is anticipating a “difficult” encounter against fellow Premier League new boys Fulham when the pair meet in a crucial clash this coming weekend in the top-flight.
The two teams both rose from the Championship last season but have struggled to leave a indelible imprint upon the division throughout their maiden campaign so far.
Now, with a handful of matches set to resume following the death of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Cooper is not expecting an easier matchup with the Cottagers, simply because they both stepped up to the top tier this time around.
Instead, he is preparing his side for a potential bombardment on their defensive capabilities when their rivals rock up to the City Ground.
“It’ll be difficult,” he said. “But it’s the Premier League. Every game is difficult. Fulham were excellent last year, comfortably won the league and deserved it. They have continuation and momentum and there’s a lot that can be said for that.”
The danger presented by Serbia international Aleksandar Mitrovic, comfortably Fulham’s most lethal operator, represents a major threat to the already bruised Forest defence this term – but Cooper further pointed out that a hazard of Premier League football is always going to be facing top players.
“We also try to analyse and recognise Mitrovic’s strengths and the best way to keep him quiet. We have to be mindful of that,” he said. “(But in our last) three games, we played Harry Kane, Erling Haaland and then Dominic Solanke. The reality is we come up against good strikers in most games we play.”
Opposite number Marco Silva meanwhile demanded a reaction from his side after a prior loss to Tottenham, while adding that he too anticipates a close encounter between former promotion rivals.
“Definitely, it will be a tough match for both teams – not just for us, for them as well,” he added. “There’s not a big difference in terms of ideas, philosophy, but I believe the game will be completely different.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Forest – Brennan Johnson
With a penalty in defeat to Bournemouth, the youngster furthered his already impressive streak in and around the box. He has scored 18 league goals since the start of last season – more than any other player aged 21 or under in England’s top four tiers.
Fulham – Aleksandar Mitrovic
With six goals in the Cottagers’ opening six Premier League matches this term, the Serbia star is on fire. He has netted four games in a row too – the last player to score in five consecutive top-flight matches for a freshman team was Peter Odemwingie in May 2011 for West Brom.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This is the first ever Premier League meeting between Nottingham Forest and Fulham, with their last top-flight encounter ending 2-2 at the City Ground in April 1968.
– Fulham have won each of their last three away league games against Nottingham Forest. They last won four consecutively on the road against an opponent against Middlesbrough, between 1972 and 1984.
– Fulham have won five of their last seven league games against Nottingham Forest since 2017 (L2), as many as in their previous 20 against them between 1968 and 2016 (D7 L8).
– This will be Nottingham Forest’s 205th Premier League game, but their first ever on a Friday. Meanwhile, having won their first Premier League game on a Friday in December 2003 (2-0 v Southampton), Fulham are winless in their last five such matches (D1 L4).
– Nottingham Forest have lost their last three Premier League games – they last lost more consecutively in the top-flight between August and September 1992 (6).