Fulham play Southampton on Boxing Day in what should be one of the better fixtures of the festive period.
The Saints have of course been exceptional this season, contending for a Champions League spot in the early stages of the campaign, while Fulham seem to constantly be improving, going unbeaten in each of their last three games, and picking up impressive results against both Liverpool and Leicester City.
However, the Whites will be depleted for this game against Southampton.
Joachim Andersen was questionably sent off for a foul on Callum Wilson on Saturday evening against Newcastle, and while Andersen will be difficult to replace, Parker may have an even bigger selection dilemma to deal with.
Indeed, because Mario Lemina is ineligible to play against his parent club, he won’t be playing on Boxing Day, and that causes all sorts of problems.
Of course, there is a big issue in the fact that Lemina can’t play, after all, he’s been one of Fulham’s best players as of late, winning Man of the Match against Newcastle at the weekend, but Parker will also have an issue when it comes to choosing his replacement.
The natural choice would usually be Harrison Reed, an energetic midfielder in a similar mould to Lemina, but Parker also has to consider club captain Tom Cairney and high-earning loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
A lot of that choice will depend on which system Parker looks to use, as he’s switched between a 5-2-3 and a 4-2-3-1 in recent weeks, and while Lemina fit well into both of those, the same can’t be said about Cairney and Loftus-Cheek.
Our view is that Reed should be in for Lemina as a straight swap, but the idea of dropping your captain and not playing one of your highest earning players is something that may play on Parker’s mind.
We certainly don’t envy Parker for having to make this decision, especially when Andersen is also out for this game.