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Fulham

What Fulham need to do to get automatic promotion

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

Max Cohen

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Fulham
Photo: Getty Images

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.

Max is an 18-year-old football journalist studying at the University of Pennsylvania. Max specialises in English football, is an avid follower of Fulham, and co-hosts a weekly Fulham podcast. He is also a politics reporter and deputy news editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Fulham

Why Aboubakar Kamara will be vital to Fulham’s play-off final success

The 23-year-old could prove Fulham’s secret weapon at Wembley.

Max Cohen

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Aboubakar Kamara
Photo; Getty Images

Although Denis Odoi and Ryan Sessegnon stole the headlines in the aftermath of Fulham’s 2-0 play-off semi-final win over Derby, perhaps the standout player that night was right winger Aboubakar Kamara.

The 23-year-old Frenchman was drafted into the starting lineup for the first time since January, and produced an all-action performance that was filled with power, pace, and trickery.

And in the Cottagers’ upcoming play-off final, the winger will be vital to Fulham’s success if he can replicate his semifinal heroics against Aston Villa.

Kamara joined Fulham last summer after gaining promotion to Ligue 1 with French side Amiens, and divided opinion early on during his stay at Craven Cottage. There was no doubting his natural gifts and ability, yet often his composure and technique was left severely lacking.

A inconsistent fall was followed by a prolific winter, in which the Frenchman scored five goals during a four match spell in December and January.

(Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images)

But the arrival of Aleksandar Mitrovic on transfer deadline day relegated Kamara to the bench, where he mainly stayed until the penultimate match of the regular season against Sunderland.

In that match, Kamara’s introduction completely changed the course of the game and helped the Whites come back to win from a 1-0 first half deficit.

But in the ensuing two matches, manager Slavisa Jokanovic did not hand the attacker a place in the starting XI and Fulham proceeded to lose against Birmingham City and Derby.

And then Kamara truly announced himself in the second leg at the Cottage, offering an excellent offensive outlet all match long, terrorising the defence with his bursts of acceleration, and linking up superbly with Mitrovic and Sessegnon.

The 23-year-old provided the spark the Whites were missing in the first leg of the semifinal; this offensive firepower will also be priceless in the final against Villa.

The thought of a confident Aboubakar Kamara running full pelt at a helpless Alan Hutton is a delightful image for the Fulham faithful, who will hope the Frenchman can continue his excellent recent form and lead the club to the Premier League.

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Crystal Palace

Ryan Fredericks would be perfect for Crystal Palace if Fulham lose at Wembley

The 25-year-old has earned praise for his performances throughout the season.

Josh Kerr

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Ryan Fredericks
Photo: Getty Images

Fulham defender Ryan Fredericks is just days away from the biggest game of his career and yet the 25-year-old is still being linked with a move away from Craven Cottage.

According to the Evening Standard, the 25-year-old has emerged as a target for Crystal Palace as the Englishman reaches the end of his Cottagers contract.

The former Tottenham prospect helped his current side reach the play-off final last week. However, if the Cottagers are to miss out at Wembley then he may be tempted to consider offers from the top-flight.

The full-back is still yet to sign a new deal and after 47 appearances and an impressive seven assists this season, he has quickly has emerged as one of the hottest properties in the EFL Championship.

After making the PFA Championship Team of the Year, Fredericks remains one of Slavisa Jokanovic’s most important players and if they are to fall short at the final hurdle then Crystal Palace would be the perfect destination for the right-back to play in England’s top flight.

(Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

With Joel Ward likely to leave Selhurst Park next month and, despite Aaron Wan-Bissaka performing well since making the jump from the academy, Fredericks could be a long-term addition at full-back. With his contract soon up at Craven Cottage, he could be one of the bargains of the summer window.

Roy Hodgson and his sporting director Dougie Freedman were even in attendance as Fulham beat Derby 2-0 on Monday to set up the showdown with Steve Bruce’s Villa, which will have sparked the former England international’s attention.

Fredericks started his career in north London with Tottenham Hotspur, progressing through the club’s academy system before signing a professional contract in 2010.

However, an exit from the Lilywhites and a number of loan moves left the young full-back frustrated with game time and it was fellow London side Fulham who eventually took a gamble – a risk that has paid dividends ever since.

The versatile defender has one appearance for England’s Under-19 side to his name, and he is eligible to play for Guyana.

Whether Hodgson swoops for Fredericks could be decided on Saturday. The Fulham defender will likely commit his future to Craven Cottage should Fulham win at Wembley, but the Premier League will remain a possibility even if Jokanovic’s side are unsuccessful.

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Fulham

How Fulham’s Denis Odoi went from defensive liability to play-off hero

The 29-year-old grabbed the Cottagers’ winner in the play-off semi-final

Max Cohen

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Denis Odoi
Photo: Getty Images

Carried off the pitch on the shoulders of an adoring Craven Cottage crowd, Denis Odoi enjoyed his finest footballing moment in Fulham’s 2-0 play-off semi-final win over Derby.

The Belgian defender scored a sensational headed winner to send the Whites to Wembley, but few would have predicted Odoi would play the hero on Monday night.

How did a player once derided as a defensive liability become Fulham’s play-off saviour?

Ever since making the switch from Belgian football to Fulham in the summer of 2016, Odoi had struggled to nail down a starting spot at the Cottage.

Previously best known for an audacious bit of skill he pulled off against Newcastle on his debut, the 29-year-old became infamous for defensive lapses and poor giveaways.

Perhaps his lowest point in a Fulham shirt came this December, when Odoi was senselessly sent off in a dreadful 3-1 loss to Brentford.

His two yellow cards in quick succession were easily avoidable; afterwards, it looked set that the centre-back pairing of Tomas Kalas and Tim Ream would reign supreme for the rest of the season.

But after Kalas suffered a hip injury against Wolves in late February, Odoi has seamlessly marshalled the Fulham backline alongside Ream.

Even when the Chelsea loanee returned to fitness, the Belgian has kept him out of the starting lineup with superb performances filled with excellent tackles, a strong aerial presence, and intelligent interceptions.

Since Odoi replaced Kalas, Fulham have kept a remarkable seven clean sheets in the following 14 matches, in which Odoi has played every minute.

Odoi’s play-off performances have thrust him firmly into Fulham folklore.

In the narrow first-leg defeat at Pride Park, the centre-back made a number of stunning interceptions to cut out dangerous crosses that would have resulted in certain goals.

These vital interventions meant the scoreline was kept a manageable 1-0, allowing Odoi to rise highest from a corner and send Fulham to the play-off final.

During May 26’s match at Wembley, expect Denis Odoi to continue his recent resurgence

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