A five-point return from their opening seven games represents Aston Villa's worst start to a top-flight season since 1986-87. They visit Craven Cottage on the back of a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham last time out - their fourth loss of the season so far - and manager Paul Lambert will be hoping they can put their shaky start behind them in West London. Goals are likely to be required if Villa are to take anything from their latest outing, with weekend opponents Fulham having netted at least twice in five of their seven games so far. Martin Jol's side have particularly impressed at home, with nine goals plundered in three fixtures. But Fulham will not take much comfort from their recent record against Villa, having won none of their last six meetings with the Midlanders, and losing three.
• Only Barcelona (66.7%) have a better shooting accuracy than Fulham (63.5%) across Europe's top five leagues this season.
• Only Norwich (6.8%) have a worse chance conversion rate than Paul Lambert's Villa side this season (9.8%).
Martin Jol has concerns over Bryan Ruiz, who picked up a groin problem on international duty with Costa Rica. Dimitar Berbatov and Mladen Petric have both been passed fit, while Mahamadou Diarra also returns and is set to return to midfield. Young winger Alexander Kacaniklic played a major role in Sweden's extraordinary comeback against Germany and should continue on the left, though Kieran Richardson offers further options
M Schwarzer • S Riether, A Hughes, B Hangeland, JA Riise • D Duff, S Sidwell, M Diarra, A Kacaniklic • M Petric • D Berbatov
Paul Lambert has an injury concern over Ciaran Clark ahead of the trip to the Cottage. On a more positive note, Lambert looks set to have Stephen Ireland, Joe Bennett and Karim El Ahmadi all available despite recent injury concerns. The likes of Brad Guzan and Brett Holman will all be assessed after international exertions but will be expected to take their place in the squad. Christian Benteke has been in fine scoring form for Belgium and seems set to continue up front, with Darren Bent again likely to miss out.
B Guzan • M Lowton, R Vlaar, C Clark, J Bennett • B Holman, K El Ahmadi, F Delph • S Ireland • G Agbonlahor, C Benteke