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What Fulham need to do to get automatic promotion

Fulham
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Fulham

What Fulham need to do to get automatic promotion

The Whites are on an incredible 19-game unbeaten run.

Fulham’s last five matches could prove to be the most important month in their recent history. Just two points behind Cardiff City, second place and automatic promotion is within touching distance, yet a variety of things need to go their way.

Tuesday 10 April, Reading (H)

Prediction: 3 points

A fixture that packs a substantial amount of emotional significance, the Whites face off against Reading in very different circumstances than 11 months ago.

The Royals broke Fulham hearts when they knocked them out of the play-off semi-finals in May 2016, but the two sides have gone in divergent directions since.

Ever since losing in the play-off finals to Huddersfield, Reading have endured a nightmare season, currently mired in 19th position after sacking manager Jaap Stam in February.

After undergoing an eight-match winless run starting in February, Reading have won two out of their last three matches. Despite the recent improvement in form, Fulham should easily deal with the Royals at Craven Cottage.

Saturday 14 April, Brentford (H)

Prediction: 3 points

The West London derby will prove to be a tough match, as Fulham lost away at Griffin Park in the reverse fixture. Yet the Cottager’s imperious home form will be too much for the Bees; Fulham have not lost at home since Halloween against Bristol City.

Brentford are on a run of good form, unbeaten in their last four, and still harbour faint hopes of sneaking into the play-offs.

But by the time they face Fulham, the gap to sixth will prove to be insurmountable, leaving the Bees with little to play for. This lack of intensity will hand the Whites all three points on their march to second.

Friday 20 April, Millwall (A)

Prediction: 1 point

By far Fulham’s most challenging match remaining in their run-in, a trip to The Den to face off against red-hot Millwall is no walk in the park.

Remarkably, Millwall have matched Fulham’s scintillating form over the past ten matches; both sides have won eight and drawn two. This scorching spell has led Millwall on a ferocious charge up the table, leaving the South London side just one point off the play-off places.

Millwall’s aggressive style of play will cause Fulham numerous problems, and in a match reminiscent of Bristol City away, the Whites will travel back to SW6 with just the solitary point.

Friday 27 April, Sunderland (H)

Prediction: 3 points

Fulham know all too well the dangers of underestimating Sunderland. The Black Cats were the last league side Fulham tasted defeat to, all the way back in mid-December.

This time around, however, Sunderland have sunk further into the relegation places while Fulham have ascended to the upper reaches of the league. Sunderland have won just one of their last 13 matches, an improbable 4-1 victory away at Derby, but the chances of a repeat at Craven Cottage look slim.

On the day, Fulham’s quality will prove overwhelming for the League 1 bound Black Cats.

Sunday 6 May, Birmingham City (A)

Prediction: 3 points

The Whites travel to St. Andrew’s on the final day of the season to play a relegation-threatened Birmingham City side.

The Midlands outfit have struggled immensely at times this season, but have enjoyed a recent uptick in form, winning four out of their last three and lifting themselves three points clear of safety. Their Championship status is still in limbo, as they face a brutal fight to avoid 22nd place between themselves, Barnsley, and Bolton.

Fulham should have the edge, nonetheless, and will notch all three points to complete an unbeaten second half of the season.

Total points haul: 13

If these predictions hold true, then the Whites will end the year with 91 points. In order to hand Fulham second place, Cardiff can attain no more than 11 points from their final six matches, a feat that is not out of the question.

If the Bluebirds lose to Aston Villa and Derby, while drawing with Norwich City, they could still win their remaining three matches and finish with 90 points – one point shy of Fulham.

Second place is possible if still improbable dream for the Whites- they just need to finish the year unbeaten and hope for a late collapse from the Bluebirds.

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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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