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What Fulham need to do to get automatic promotion

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

Max Cohen



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 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.


One to watch: Ryan Sessegnon under the spotlight as Tottenham host Fulham

The teenager could be forced to play at left-back this weekend.

Max Cohen



Photo: Getty Images

Ryan Sessegnon’s Premier League debut did not go quite as planned.

The highly-rated 18-year-old, who took the Championship by storm the past two seasons was largely neutralised by Crystal Palace‘s Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and was denied space in the attacking areas where he is usually so dangerous.

It is still early days and it was by no means a poor performance, but revealed how the youngster must quickly adapt to the higher level of the top flight.

Sessegnon’s second ever Premier League match will come away at Tottenham Hotspur this Saturday and his performance at Wembley could go a long way in determining his success this season and later in his career.

Playing against the club he has so often been linked with will undoubtedly be difficult, providing a mental challenge that he is unlikely to have faced before.

However, perhaps the more challenging proposition will be in the footballing department. Fulham’s new left back Joe Bryan was forced off against Palace on the weekend with an injury, and is expected to be a doubt for Saturday’s fixture.

Without any true left back back-ups, Sessegnon will most likely be tasked with filling in at the left side of defence, instead of his preferred left wing position.

Against a fearsome attacking team such as Spurs, boasting the likes of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli, the 18-year-old could endure a baptism of fire in his first ever top flight start as a defender.

Sessegnon’s performance will also be illuminating as it could provide a glimpse into his future as an attacking left back– not as an out-and-out left winger.

“He is an incredible player project, with a fantastic physical capacity. People compare him to Bale, for me it’s a mix between Marcelo and Bale. I’ve used him lately in a more offensive role, but he’s ready to be left-back of a big team that constantly attacks.”

Slavisa Jokanovic speaking to Marca this summer on Sessegnon’s future position

According to his manager, Sessegnon could develop into an attack-minded defender for a ‘big-team.’

On Saturday at Wembley, Spurs supporters could catch a first glimpse of the youngster in that role in the Premier League – a role they will be hoping he can perform for the club in north London one day.

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English Premier League

Fulham round-up: Duo depart & £9m target explains rejected move

A selection of news and gossip from Fulham.



Photo: Getty Images

Cairney ready to fight

Fulham captain Tom Cairney played a crucial part in his side’s promotion from the Championship last term but he faces a stern battle to retain his spot in 2018-19 following an influx of transfer activity at Craven Cottage.

The competition for places has increased significantly with the signings of Jean-Michel Seri, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and many more but Cairney is relishing the fight to land a regular starting berth in the line-up.

In comments made to Sky Sports, Cairney praised the club’s hierarchy for showing their ambition and admitted he was extremely excited by the club’s activity on Deadline Day – where five new faces were secured.

Norman and Djalo exit

With plenty coming in, it has been clear that there needs to be movement away from Craven Cottage and Fulham have sent two of the younger members of their squad away on loan for the season, as reported by Sky Sports.

(Photo by West Ham United FC/West Ham United via Getty Images)

21-year-old goalkeeper Magnus Norman, who is yet to make a senior appearance for the club, has left to join Rochdale until January after the signings of Fabri and Sergio Rico pushed the stopper down the pecking order.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Marcelo Djalo has moved to Spanish second division outfit Extremadura on loan until the end of the season after making just four appearances last term after signing for the west London outfit.

Hugo Mallo rejection

Fulham did not get everyone they set their sights on in the summer and failed to lure Hugo Mallo to the club from Celta Vigo after tabling a £9m offer for the experienced full-back, according to Marca, before then turning their sights towards Manchester United‘s Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

The 27-year-old elected to remain with the LaLiga side and has now explained the reasons behind that decision to Marca, ahead of the commencement of the new campaign in Spain this weekend after signing a new deal with the club.

“In life, money isn’t everything. My intention was always to continue playing for Celta. So the agreement with the club was simple and very fast.”

– Mallo explains his decision for turning down Fulham.

Sessegnon focused

The shining light of Fulham’s successful promotion push last season, plenty of eyes were cast towards Ryan Sessegnon in the summer with the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur heavily linked with the future England star.

Sessegnon netted 15 goals and bagged six assists last season for the Cottagers but never had his head turned by the reported interest from other sides, he told Sky Sports, although he admitted he has received a boost from the suggestion he is ready to play Champions League football.

From Fulham’s perspective, the 18-year-old did not offer an update on his contract situation and said he was not aware of a new deal being in the pipeline.

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Crystal Palace

Team of the Week: Crystal Palace’s Wayne Hennessey flawless performance denies Fulham

The Welshman was on hand to deny Fulham on six occasions.

Max Cohen



Photo: Getty Images

When Crystal Palace went out and acquired Vicente Guaita from Getafe in the summer, goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey surely must have been apprehensive about his status as the club’s number one.

But, despite the Spaniard’s arrival, Hennessey kept his place in the squad and produced a flawless performance against Fulham en route to a 2-0 victory this weekend.

The Welshman did also sign a new three-year contract over the summer, and rewarded Roy Hodgson’s faith in him by recording six saves against the Cottagers.

“[Hennessey] ended the last season exceptionally well and played very well around that time, so even though both goalkeepers have done well in the pre-season matches, I had no reason to take the shirt from Wayne.”

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson.

The newly-promoted side started the match brightly and had the Eagles on the back foot at Craven Cottage, yet the 31-year-old stood strong between the sticks.

In the first five minutes, Hennessey dove brilliantly to his left to claw away a rasping drive from Cyrus Christie. He followed that up by denying Aleksandar Mitrovic’s smashed strikes on a number of occasions, frustrating the Serbian striker.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

The goalkeeper’s saves were ever the more impressive considering the lack of clear-cut rebounds they produced. With winger Ryan Sessegnon eager to pounce on any loose ball in the box, Hennessey made sure to parry shots well away from the danger area and maintain his clean sheet.

Vital to Crystal Palace’s defensive solidity in their opening Premier League win in SW6, Wayne Hennessey repaid his manager’s faith and earned himself a place in the team of the week.

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