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Fulham’s recall of Neeskens Kebano will be crucial to promotion hopes

The 26-year-old featured for the Whites versus Sheffield Wednesday.

Max Cohen



Neeskens Kebano
Photo: Getty Images

In the 72nd minute in Fulham’s match against Sheffield Wednesday, the Craven Cottage faithful were treated to a rare sight as Neeskens Kebano was sent on to replace Floyd Ayite.

A fan favourite in SW6 ever since he arrived in the summer of 2016, Kebano had mysteriously been frozen out of the Fulham squad for months. His return to the pitch won the match for the Whites, and his performances could provide the spark the club need to gain automatic promotion.

Bizarrely, the Democratic Republic of Congo international hadn’t featured for Fulham for over two months. Kebano’s last Fulham appearance had been in the 3-1 win over Barnsley in late January, in a match where the winger was excellent and delivered a brilliant assist.

Nonetheless, for reasons unbeknown to supporters, Kebano was omitted from the squad, playing no league minutes in February or March, and being left off the bench for many matches as well.

Slavisa Jokanovic recalled the winger to the bench versus Leeds, and then just four days later handed him his first appearance since January when Ayite went down with an injury.

The match was finely poised at 0-0 and appeared to be fizzling out for a goalless draw. Yet Kebano’s introduction added intense pace and purpose to the Fulham attack, leading to a barrage of lethal attacks that eventually resulted in Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 78th-minute winner.

Kebano was full of energy and direct running, slipping in dangerous through balls, darting behind the opposition defence, and giving the Wednesday back three a torrid time. His quick one-two with Matt Targett opened up space for Ryan Sessegnon to run free on the left wing, a burst of movement that led to the winning goal.

If Kebano can replicate Saturday’s impactful appearance, it will prove to be a massive boost for the Whites in the remaining five matches. The option of the Congolese attacker adds an extra attacking dimension to Fulham’s gameplan, one which can break down tight matches in the closing stages of games.

With the gap to Cardiff City in second whittled down to just two points after the weekend’s results, fine margins will be vital in the run-in; and Neeskens Kebano could provide Fulham with that slight edge come May.

Max is a journalist studying at the University of Pennsylvania. Max specialises in English football and co-hosts a weekly podcast. He is also a politics reporter and deputy news editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian.

English Premier League

Fulham round-up: Duo depart & £9m target explains rejected move

A selection of news and gossip from Fulham.



Photo: Getty Images

Cairney ready to fight

Fulham captain Tom Cairney played a crucial part in his side’s promotion from the Championship last term but he faces a stern battle to retain his spot in 2018-19 following an influx of transfer activity at Craven Cottage.

The competition for places has increased significantly with the signings of Jean-Michel Seri, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and many more but Cairney is relishing the fight to land a regular starting berth in the line-up.

In comments made to Sky Sports, Cairney praised the club’s hierarchy for showing their ambition and admitted he was extremely excited by the club’s activity on Deadline Day – where five new faces were secured.

Norman and Djalo exit

With plenty coming in, it has been clear that there needs to be movement away from Craven Cottage and Fulham have sent two of the younger members of their squad away on loan for the season, as reported by Sky Sports.

(Photo by West Ham United FC/West Ham United via Getty Images)

21-year-old goalkeeper Magnus Norman, who is yet to make a senior appearance for the club, has left to join Rochdale until January after the signings of Fabri and Sergio Rico pushed the stopper down the pecking order.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Marcelo Djalo has moved to Spanish second division outfit Extremadura on loan until the end of the season after making just four appearances last term after signing for the west London outfit.

Hugo Mallo rejection

Fulham did not get everyone they set their sights on in the summer and failed to lure Hugo Mallo to the club from Celta Vigo after tabling a £9m offer for the experienced full-back, according to Marca, before then turning their sights towards Manchester United‘s Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

The 27-year-old elected to remain with the LaLiga side and has now explained the reasons behind that decision to Marca, ahead of the commencement of the new campaign in Spain this weekend after signing a new deal with the club.

“In life, money isn’t everything. My intention was always to continue playing for Celta. So the agreement with the club was simple and very fast.”

– Mallo explains his decision for turning down Fulham.

Sessegnon focused

The shining light of Fulham’s successful promotion push last season, plenty of eyes were cast towards Ryan Sessegnon in the summer with the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur heavily linked with the future England star.

Sessegnon netted 15 goals and bagged six assists last season for the Cottagers but never had his head turned by the reported interest from other sides, he told Sky Sports, although he admitted he has received a boost from the suggestion he is ready to play Champions League football.

From Fulham’s perspective, the 18-year-old did not offer an update on his contract situation and said he was not aware of a new deal being in the pipeline.

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Crystal Palace

Team of the Week: Crystal Palace’s Wayne Hennessey flawless performance denies Fulham

The Welshman was on hand to deny Fulham on six occasions.

Max Cohen



Photo: Getty Images

When Crystal Palace went out and acquired Vicente Guaita from Getafe in the summer, goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey surely must have been apprehensive about his status as the club’s number one.

But, despite the Spaniard’s arrival, Hennessey kept his place in the squad and produced a flawless performance against Fulham en route to a 2-0 victory this weekend.

The Welshman did also sign a new three-year contract over the summer, and rewarded Roy Hodgson’s faith in him by recording six saves against the Cottagers.

“[Hennessey] ended the last season exceptionally well and played very well around that time, so even though both goalkeepers have done well in the pre-season matches, I had no reason to take the shirt from Wayne.”

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson.

The newly-promoted side started the match brightly and had the Eagles on the back foot at Craven Cottage, yet the 31-year-old stood strong between the sticks.

In the first five minutes, Hennessey dove brilliantly to his left to claw away a rasping drive from Cyrus Christie. He followed that up by denying Aleksandar Mitrovic’s smashed strikes on a number of occasions, frustrating the Serbian striker.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

The goalkeeper’s saves were ever the more impressive considering the lack of clear-cut rebounds they produced. With winger Ryan Sessegnon eager to pounce on any loose ball in the box, Hennessey made sure to parry shots well away from the danger area and maintain his clean sheet.

Vital to Crystal Palace’s defensive solidity in their opening Premier League win in SW6, Wayne Hennessey repaid his manager’s faith and earned himself a place in the team of the week.

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Fulham’s likely XI vs Crystal Palace: Seri, Bryan & Schurrle debuts

There are plenty of new faces at Craven Cottage.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Slavisa Jokanovic is going to face a number of selection dilemmas over the course of the coming season after some excellent summer recruitment by Fulham.

His owners have provided him with a squad that should compete in the Premier League and relegation now looks very unlikely, even before a ball has been kicked.

That is quite some achievement by a promoted club that has come through the play-offs and Tony Khan deserves praise for the business he has conducted.

Fulham have been ambitious and shown just how attractive they can be with Premier League status. The supporters are rightly excited ahead of the first game against Crystal Palace.

Here is how the Cottagers could line-up…

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Goalkeeper – Fabri

The Spaniard was signed from Besiktas during the summer and he is likely to start the season in goal for Fulham. It could be that he is only keeping the shirt warm for Sergio Rico, but his compatriot only joined on deadline day and this weekend is likely to come too soon.

If Fabri wants to be the number one this season, it is important that he delivers on Saturday as he may not get too many more chances.

(Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Defence – Christie, Chambers, Le Marchand, Bryan

There were a number of defensive signings made by Fulham over the summer as they prepare for life in the Premier League and three could be set for their debuts on Saturday.

Cyrus Christie is likely to start the season at right-back and he will be hoping to step his game up to replace Ryan Fredericks. The opposite full-back position could go to Joe Bryan. The deadline day signing played for Bristol City last weekend and he will be ready to go.

Calum Chambers will provide Premier League experience, while Maxime Le Marchand has had a pre-season with Fulham and could be given the start. Alfie Mawson will be missing for the opening fixture, but he is likely to take one of the spots on his return.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Midfield – McDonald, Seri, Cairney

Although there has been a lot of eye-catching signings made by Fulham over the summer, it is important that Jokanovic maintains a core from the promotion-winning team. Kevin McDonald has been crucial in their development in recent years and he will be given the chance to start the season.

He sits in front of the back four and allows the more talented players to thrive in the team. Tom Cairney has considered a Premier League player for a long time and he now has the opportunity to prove that. Last season, he contributed six goals and five assists. He will want a similar return in the Premier League.

The headline signing of Fulham’s summer was Jean Michael Seri and he will be the player everyone is watching at Craven Cottage on Saturday. He will provide dynamism and technical ability to the midfield. The Ivorian will want to make an instant impact against Crystal Palace.

(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Attack – Schurrle, Mitrovic, Sessegnon

The Cottagers are a promoted club, but their forward line looks to be one of the best outside of the top six. Andre Schurrle will be given his debut on the first weekend of the season and he will have a point to prove in England after an underwhelming spell with Chelsea.

Aleksandar Mitrovic was excellent for Fulham last season and his permanent signing was a priority during the summer. They managed to get him back and he will be full of confidence as he attempts to prove himself in the top-flight. The system will get the best from him.

They will be joined in the attack by Ryan Sessegnon. The teenager will be hoping to have a good first season in the Premier League and his partnership with Bryan has huge potential. The academy graduate will be deployed in an advanced role, where he can do most damage.

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