Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
The precise thickness of the wall that separates the Premier League from the Championship will be tested by this meeting between two sides who swapped places at the end of the last season, and could yet do likewise at the end of this. Fulham were relegated in May but are aiming for an immediate return to the top flight, while a freshly-promoted Villa may see this game as an unwelcome distraction from their bid to maintain their Premier League status.
Both sides’ form could be described as “inconsistent”. Villa’s recent outings have come against teams who share their lowly position in the top flight; wins over Burnley and Norwich have come on the heels of losses to Watford and Southampton. For Fulham, recent wins over Stoke and Championship leaders Leeds have been impressive, but frustratingly mixed in with points dropped against Luton and Reading.
Fulham vs Aston Villa Prediction: Fulham 1-0 Aston Villa
In their bread-and-butter league action, both of these sides are best defined as attacking set-ups who are capable of scoring plenty of goals but doomed to concede a lot as well. That could set this one up to be a classic end-to-end cup tie – but there’s reason to believe it will go precisely the opposite way. Particularly in the case of the injury-hit visitors, there is little to be gained by treating the FA Cup as winnable silverware, and it’s easy to see the sides resting a number of their stars. A potentially disjointed match should still be decided on the day, and Fulham are in a more comfortable position right now so they narrowly merit the tag of favourites.
Our recommended tip: Fulham win to nil
Villa’s impressive win at Burnley lifted them out of the relegation zone, but did not come without a price, as both goalkeeper Tom Heaton and striker Wesley were stretchered off with knee injuries which are still being assessed for seriousness. It would be a major shock if either player were risked for a game Villa might end up being relieved to lose – which instantly strips the Premier League side of their first-choice stopper and the focus of their attack. Taken together with home advantage, a win without conceding should be within Fulham’s capabilities, so we’d back this outcome at 10/3 with 888.
With these sides spending a few seasons collectively yo-yoing between divisions, it’s been a couple of years since they met in a competitive outing, with the 2017/18 season being the last time they shared a division. They last met at Craven Cottage in February of 2018, when goals from Ryan Sessegnon and Floyd Ayite secured the home side a 2-0 win. They would meet again, in May, as both sides reached the final of the promotion play-off, with Fulham again emerging the happier after Tom Cairney struck a first-half winner to secure promotion for the London side.
Top 3 FA Cup Bookies
Players to watch: Aleksandar Mitrovic & Jonathan Kodjia
It seems like forever ago that Serbian forward Mitrovic was struggling to make an impact while leading the line at Newcastle. Ever since he moved to Fulham, first on loan, he’s been a striker unleashed, regularly among the goals and a totemic presence up front for the Cottagers. His goals in 2017/18 got them promoted, a continued supply last season couldn’t quite keep them up, but his 18 in 25 appearances this campaign is a personal best since his arrival in England, and he’ll always be a threat.
Kodjia’s appearance in this game was likely anyway given the likelihood for Villa to shuffle their pack, but the enforced absence of Wesley makes it all the more sensible to start him here. His last full appearance came in a League Cup quarter final against (a weakened) Liverpool; two decent strikes against a defence full of teenagers may not have been the toughest night at the office for Kodjia, but they all count. The Ivoirien international will be keen to show his value to a Wesley-less Villa side here.