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How Fulham can still topple Cardiff for automatic promotion

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How Fulham can still topple Cardiff for automatic promotion

Hopes of automatic promotion remain alive for the Cottagers.

It speaks volumes about Fulham’s tremendous revival that the conversation around Craven Cottage has shifted entirely from a top-six finish to the automatic promotion places.

At this stage last season, the Whites were a point outside of the top-six, while they entered 2018’s international break in third position, a massive eight points clear of sixth spot.

The change comes on the back of a tremendous unbeaten run that began all the way in late December and shows no signs of stopping.

Last weekend’s draw against Queens Park Rangers marked Fulham’s 16th unbeaten match in a row, breaking the previous club record of 15 matches without a loss.

Although the Fulham players should justly be delighted with the accolades, the records will mean little to the club unless promotion is secured.

It seems certain that the Whites will at minimum make the play-offs, but is it too fanciful to dream of automatic promotion in SW6?

For Fulham’s part, they simply must keep their unbeaten run alive to stand any chance of grabbing second spot.

Their impressive spell has been admirably equalled by Cardiff City, who have engineered an 11-match unbeaten run while winning their last seven.

As a result, despite Fulham’s scorching-hot form, the gap to second has been relatively constant at around seven points.

The Whites’ run-in is comparatively favourable to that of the Bluebirds, and may offer a glimmer of hope for their second-place ambitions.

Fulham play Norwich City, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Brentford, Millwall, Sunderland, and Birmingham City in their last eight. Out of these eight clubs, three are in the bottom five, and none are occupy the top nine.

Cardiff, on the other hand, face a far tougher run of things in their last nine matches (Cardiff crucially has a game in hand over Fulham).

Winnable matches against Burton, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Reading, and Hull are offset by grueling games versus the likes of Wolves, Aston Villa, Sheffield United, and Derby.

If Fulham can pull off the improbable and finish the season without another loss, then it would not only mark a stunning 2018 turn-around, but could provide ammunition for automatic promotion.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Seven points is a large gap to make up with only eight matches remaining, but Cardiff’s substantially harder schedule could allow Fulham to tighten the gap.

Second-place could be a long-shot for the Whites, but Fulham are right to dream of automatic promotion; last season’s play-off heartbreak is still fresh in the memory.

A late, frantic push for the top-two will provide the closing months of the season with fresh drama – nothing less than Premier League status is at stake.

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Max is a journalist studying at the University of Pennsylvania. Max specialises in English football and co-hosts a weekly podcast. He is also a politics reporter and deputy news editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian.

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