Threat Aleksandar Mitrovic brings out his firepower in Fulham’s mauling of Stoke… as team-mate Tim Ream admits he has the BRUISES to prove what a handful the striker is in training
Fulham captain Tim Ream knows exactly how his rival Championship defenders will feel after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s decision to extend his stay at Craven Cottage.
The Serbian international had a rough time in the Premier League last season, finding the net just three times as the Cottagers slid straight back to the second tier.
But Mitrovic, 26, who signed a new five-year deal on Friday, has been revived under incoming boss Marco Silva and scored his fourth goal of the season on Saturday to secure the win that sees the Cottagers head into the international break at the head from the table.
Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic (R) helped Fulham Stoke 3-0 at home in the Championship
Mitrovic scored the third goal in a walk for the Cottagers to send them to the top of the early table
Ream admits Mitrovic’s continued presence at the club has brought about a timely improvement, but acknowledges that training will remain an uncomfortable experience for himself and his fellow defenders.
“He’s a handful to deal with, he’s causing so much trouble,” Ream said. “He’s not someone we like to hang out with in training. In training he gives it his all and I have the bruises to prove it.
‘I stay away from him as much as possible! I know what he brings… I want to be fully fit and not be sore when playing games!
“If you know he’s doing his best, everything will go wrong. You can play the ball to him and he will stick or he can play someone into it. If you put the right guys around him in games, it’s a dangerous combination.
Fulham captain Tim Ream (L) has admitted players don’t like to face Mitrovic in training
“We knew that Mitrovic would stay before the contract announcement – it shows that he is committed to the cause, and he has proven that in the last three or four games.”
Mitrovic was involved in all of his side’s best moments against Stoke – with one hand in Harry Wilson’s opener and Bobby De Cordova-Reid’s second before adding the third himself – although he will want to forget the penalty saved in extra time after Stoke keeper Josef Bursik fouled Neeskens Kebano.
Fulham’s display showed why they’ve been tipped to jump right back up and make up for last season’s relegation.
“The whole squad has something to prove this season, not just Mitrovic,” said Ream. “We want to be at the top of this division. We’ve made tough yards and that’s where we want to stay.
Marco Silva’s display showed why they are tipped to go straight back to the top flight
“It was embarrassing to be relegated like we did last season. We all have something to prove, not just one or two guys. We all came in pre-season with chips on our shoulders.’
A defeat put an end to Stoke’s unbeaten start, but Bursik believes it could have its advantages. “Maybe it’s a wake-up call to see what level they are at, because a lot of players have played in the Premier League,” said the goalkeeper.
“It’s definitely a benchmark and we need to raise it for our next matches. The manager has said we should look at it as we have 10 points from five games. We are very happy with the start and we can’t come down too much with one defeat.’