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Fulham v City: Key Battles

IN CONTROL: The excellent Laporte keeps close tabs on Mitrovic

IN CONTROL: The excellent Laporte keeps close tabs on Mitrovic

The home stretch of any Premier League campaign is crucial, but City's title tilt adds an extra edge to this year's photo finish.

The next hurdle for the Blues is a tricky encounter away to a Fulham side fighting for their lives to beat the drop.

Any player can change a game, but here are three individual battles which are worth keeping an eye on in this crucial clash...

Bernardo Silva v Jean Michael Seri

We all know of his devastating capability on the ball, but what often goes unnoticed in Bernardo Silva’s play is the work he puts in when winning back possession.

The Portuguese has won the second most tackles for the Blues this season, behind only Fernandinho, and many of these interceptions have come in key attacking areas.

Against a midfielder of Jean Michael Seri’s ilk, who likes to spread play from deep, that tenacity could be crucial.

There is no questioning Seri’s ability on the ball – he topped the French Ligue 1 passing charts in both of his last two seasons at Nice - but City’s high press will test his ability to the full.

Bernardo could find some joy if he can pick the Ivorian’s pocket and set up attacks from these dangerous areas between the opposition midfield and defensive lines.

Aymeric Laporte v Aleksandar Mitrovic

Aymeric Laporte has been one of our standout performers this season, regularly showing a perfect blend of technical intelligence and good old-fashioned defensive solidity.

The Frenchman has completed the fourth most passes in the Premier League so far this season and is one of only six players to have completed more than 2,000.

But despite his evident composure on the ball, he will face a tough challenge when facing Aleksandar Mitrovic; a forward known to relentlessly press opposition defences high up the field.

Even when not at his peak, the Serbian remains a key cog in the Fulham machine - scoring or assisting over 40% of the Cottagers’ goals this season (10 goals, 2 assists).

Mitrovic’s physical style of play poses a threat whether he’s chasing in behind or has his back to goal, so Laporte will have to be at his best if he wants to stifle one of Fulham’s most effective attacking players.

Kyle Walker v Ryan Babel

Our marauding full-back seems to cover every blade of grass on the pitch, so it comes as no surprise to see that he has the second most touches of any Blue so far this season.

Walker offers width to City’s attacks and is a constant outlet but, with former Liverpool winger Ryan Babel lining up against him, the England full-back will need to pay close attention to his defensive responsibilities.

Babel likes to get in behind his marker and has pitched in with two goals and three assists since his January arrival – a fleeting positive in a turbulent few months at Fulham.

The battle down the right at Craven Cottage will be intriguing with Walker needing to stifle the threat of the Dutchman whilst also continuing to get on the ball and help keep the Blues ticking over.

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