Gary O’Neil: Fulham still a threat without Aleksandar Mitrovic and Willian
Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil has warned his side not to underestimate Fulham’s threat without suspended duo Aleksandar Mitrovic and Willian.
Striker Mitrovic and Brazilian midfielder Willian will both start bans when Premier League action returns this weekend after being shown red cards during the FA Cup defeat at Manchester United.
Cottagers boss Marco Silva was also sent to the stands by referee Chris Kavanagh for his protests at the award of a late penalty, and along with Mitrovic – who shoved Kavanagh – awaits further punishment from the Football Association.
Despite imploding during 60 seconds of madness at Old Trafford – where they had been 1-0 up heading into the final 20 minutes – Fulham are ninth in the table and only three points off the top six.
O’Neil knows his relegation battlers will need to be on their guard to get a positive result against the Cottagers at the Vitality Stadium and kickstart a survival push.
“They have got a fantastic squad and they added well in the summer to what was already a strong group,” said O’Neil.
“They will replace those two with very good footballers. Whether it’s Carlos Vinicius who comes in or whether they decide to use somebody else as the number nine, they will still be a real threat.
“They have had a fantastic season and Marco has done an incredible job.
“For a team coming up from the Championship to be as high up the table as they are and competing for European places is a real achievement, so it will be a tough test for us.
“They are a big threat from crosses and set-plays and are a good side, but they come here to our place in a home game that is big for us.”
O’Neil told a press conference: “I am really confident in the group and what we have available in the room now, mentally and physically, that we can give this a real good go for the next 11 games.
“I am sure if we do that and we do what we know we can, we will be absolutely fine.”
Bournemouth midfielder David Brooks made a first appearance since cancer treatment when he came on as a late substitute in the defeat at Aston Villa before the international break.
Brooks scored a hat-trick in the Hampshire Senior Cup against Portsmouth over the international break.
O’Neil, though, will not expect too much too soon from the 25-year-old Welshman, who had last featured in a game in September 2021, shortly after which he was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin lymphoma.
“Everyone at the club knows the quality he has,” the Cherries boss said.
“Prior to the tough period he went through, he showed some fantastic form especially in those Premier League seasons when he was used as a number 10 and off the side. He creates real problems for the opposition.
“I was delighted for David. I didn’t want him to score too many because I knew there would be a lot of noise about how quickly we could get him back in and we still need to be sensible around it.”
O’Neil added: “He has had another good two weeks, has trained well and is a player with real quality so to have him available for the next 11 games is huge for him and everybody else.
“He is in a good place and we are pleased with the way he is progressing.”