Fulham escaped the relegation zone with a win on Saturday 2-0 over fellow cellar dwellers Birmingham City. (Note: a spilled bottle of water trashed the keyboard of the home computer--hence the late post).
Having little to add as far as the importance of Saturday's match (called a 50 million pound game by the blokes at the ESPN Soccernet podcast), I will say it is nice to see Fulham higher on the table.
With one week remaining here are the current standings and the final match for the four teams in places 16-19 on the Table (Derby County is already going down).
16. Bolton 36 Points -18 Goal Diff. Chelsea (Away)
17. Fulham 33 Points -23 Goal Diff. Portsmouth (Away)
18. Reading 33 Points -29 Goal Diff. Derby Cty (Away)
19. Birmingham 32 Points -19 Goal Diff. Balckburn (Home)
Bolton's 2-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday guaranteed that they will stay up next year.
For Fulham, Reading and Birmingham, though, finding out who makes the drop will depend on this Sunday's matches.
For Fulham, their destiny is clearly in their hands--simply put a win and they stay in the Premier League. Some things working in their favor.
1. They are riding an intense emotional wave, assuming they can keep the wave building as opposed to having already crested. With three wins in their last four matches, including two away wins, their form is solid, and while they are not playing "sexy football" They have won and that is what matters.
2. Portsmouth will play in the FA Cup final three days after the match with Fulham. With a chance to hoist some silverware, Portsmouth may rest some key players.
3. Portsmouth keeper David James, the goalkeeper of the year, is injured and may only have one game in him for the next week and a half--meaning he would probably play in the FA Cup final.
4. As far as the league is concerned, Portsmouth have nothing to play for and a great deal to lose if they have too many injuries going in to the Cup final.
Some things not in Fulham's favor:
1. It's Portsmouth.
2. It's away. While their away form has been remarkably better (see Manchester City), it is a historical fact that Fulham have no played their best football away from Craven Cottage. However, see the final 20 minutes of Manchester City.
3. Reading is playing Derby County.
There are three other scenarios to consider.
If the three teams have the same result, i.e. all win, all draw or all lose--Fulham stays up as the points standing will remain exactly as it looks, assuming Fulham don't lose by eight goals and reading loses by one.
If Fulham lose and Reading draws, Fulham goes down.
If both Fulham and Reading lose, but Birmingham draws, Fulham goes down on goal differential.
If Fulham and Reading lose, but Birmingham win, Fulham goes down on points.
Quite literally, if Fulham do not win on Sunday, they will need the help of the soccer gods to keep them up.
It doesn't get more exciting that this.