After Saturday's loss to Liverpool at Craven Cottage, Fulham's hopes to avoid relegation, while not snuffed out completely, certain dimmed a great bit. Even a point against Liverpool would have kept hopes alive. But as striker Erik Nevland noted, the Whites will need to get three wins in their final three matches to avoid relegation and even that may not be enough--Fulham may need the soccer gods to smile upon them as well.
Fulham face Manchester City this weekend, Birmingham City in two weeks and close out the season against Portsmouth. Of absolute vital importance is the Birmingham City match, a true six point match in that Fulham can over take Birmingham with a result against Manchester and a win over Birmingham. The bottom five teams are as follows:
16. Bolton 32 Points and -20 Goal Differential
17. Reading 32 Points and -28 Goal Differential
18. Birmingham 31 Points and -17 Goal Differential
19. Fulham 27 Points and -26 Goal Differential
20. Derby 11 Points and -59 Goal Differential
Derby are of course done, already mathematically relegated. I am hoping that Americans Eddie Lewis and Benny Feilhaber can get picked up as squad men on a team staying up, but who knows.
To leap frog Birmingham City, Fulham need three points against Manchester City and a win as well over Birminghma. That would give Fulham 33 points which if Bolton and Reading both lose their next to matches, would put Fulham 1 point above safety. A win and a draw would not be enough.
Bolton will play Tottenham away, Sunderland at home and Chelsea at the Bridge to close out their season. After a somewhat shocking win against Middlesbrough away, I wouldn't put a win against Tottenham completely out of the question. Bolton can beat Sunderland at home, and a win at Stamford Bridge has proven difficult even for the top clubs and after 100 games without a loss, Chelsea dominate at the Bridge.
Reading will close out with Wigan away, Tottenham at home and Derby away. Wigan is something of a toss up match and Derby's squad is playing for jobs in teh Premier Leage and despite their already relegated status. Tottenham at home is also something of a toss up.
To keep from relegation, both Bolton need four points, a win and a draw in their final three matches. That would give them 36 points, which assuming Fulham win out to get 36 points, Bolton would sit at 16th with a better goal differential. Reading on the hand would need two wins in three matches because a slightly poorer goal differential at this point, although wins would improve that goal differential.
But both scenarios are premised on Fulham winning out, which would require two road wins agaisnt Manchester City, who looked decent against Portsmouth over the weekend and Manchester are playing to maintain their current position for next year's UEFA Cup. Portsmouth on the other hand is in the FA Cup final which will occur just three days after the match with Fulham. Thus Portsmouth may be resting key players, making an away win all that more important.
The test will be Manchester this weekend. A win there will make the scenario likely. A loss combined with a win or tie by Reading will mean almost certain relegation.