Fulham vs Newcastle predictions: Mitrovic doubts boost Magpies' win prospects
Aleksandar Mitrovic should take centre stage as one of the planet's most in-form strikers leads Fulham's attack against his former club Newcastle at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
The Serbian's 33 goals for club and country in 2022 matches the tally of Premier League top scorer Erling Haaland over the same period and ensures his status as the man Newcastle must stop — if he overcomes a knock to feature.
Fulham boss Marco Silva played his cards close to his chest over any selection concerns, but the hosts will certainly be without impressive summer signing Joao Palhinha in midfield as he serves a one-game ban.
Magpies boss Eddie Howe's seat appears to be getting hotter after a run of six league games without victory.
But the good news for him is the return to fitness of dependable goalscorer Callum Wilson with exciting dribbler Allan Saint-Maximin also on his way back.
Silva revealed Fulham will need to assess the fitness of some players with knocks — one of which is believed to be Mitrovic.
The EFL champions' 43-goal top scorer from 2021-22 reportedly sustained an ankle injury on Nations League duty with Serbia last week.
Neeskens Kebano is also understood to have returned early from international duty with a knock he picked up while playing for DR Congo against Burkina Faso.
Palhinha incurred a suspension after collecting his fifth caution of the season in Fulham's 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest last month.
The Portuguese international's place in Silva's engine room is likely to go to Nathaniel Chalobah or Tom Cairney.
Harry Wilson and Manor Solomon remain absent for the hosts.
For Newcastle, Bruno Guimaraes and Wilson have been passed fit for the Craven Cottage clash, but Saint-Maximin (hamstring) and Chris Wood (rib) face late fitness checks.
Club-record signing Alexander Isak will almost certainly miss the game because of a muscle strain sustained while on international duty, although manager Howe declared the Swedish striker does not look too bad and is already out running on the grass.
Mitrovic has scored 58 goals and supplied seven assists in his last 62 games for club and country, hitting the back of the net ten times in nine total appearances this season.
While it took Lionel Messi 107 international games to reach 50 goals for his country, and 114 for Cristano Ronaldo to do the same, Mitrovic managed it on his 76th appearance for Serbia.
He could become the first top-flight player to score in a promoted side's opening four home games since Peter Beardsley did it for Newcastle in 1984-85.
Having averaged more than 60% possession across 46 Championship games last season, Fulham's recent win at Forest was the first league game where they had a greater share of the ball than their opponents in 2022-23.
Palhinha will certainly be missed this weekend after he scored his second goal of the season, won 100% of his tackles, made seven ball recoveries and won eight of his eleven duels in Fulham's 3-2 win at the City Ground.
Newcastle's Wilson has scored three times in three top-flight fixtures against Fulham.
Much will depend on Mitrovic's readiness to play on Saturday, but Fulham will give their star striker every chance to prove it as he is the focal point of their attack.
Silva has adapted their possession-based style of last season to be more of a quick, vertical-passing side with an emphasis on creating pressure on teams that like to play out from the back.
It has produced good results so far, but how much it relies on Mitrovic could be demonstrated here while Newcastle's own counter-attacking prowess should enable them to trouble a Fulham backline not blessed with sparkling recovery pace.
The Magpies match up quite well to Fulham here and can nab all three points if Nick Pope puts his England nightmare behind him and commands his box with his usual assuredness.