Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fulham On the Cusp Of Europe

What a difference a year make.

With one game to go a year ago, Fulham were in need of a win to stay in the Premiership. Facing an FA Cup Finalist in Portsmouth a year ago, Fulham grabbed a 1-0 win to stay up.

This year, Fulham are again in a race, but this time for a place in Europe on a seventh place finish. At the beginning of the season, I would have been happy with a mid-table finish with something like 45 points (which would have just fine). But with one game left this season, Fulham sit in the driver's seat to win a Europa Cup spot.

Just like last year, Fulham will face an FA Cup Finalist, this time in Everton. However, what is different (aside from Fulham's current form) is that Fulham will face Everton at Craven Cottage and the atmosphere should be spectacular. Right now I wish I had the money to travel to London just to watch this game at the Cottage.

A single point against Everton--just a draw--will give Fulham a spot in European competition just a year after barely avoiding relegation. At the same time Fulham host Everton (who is already assured of a European spot by position in the League as opposed to winning the FA Cup), the only team who can reach Fulham is Tottenham, who in order to catch Fulham need to win against Liverpool at Anfield. Yes, I know Liverpool have nothing to play for, but they are still one of the best teams in the world. Then Tottenham would need one of these scenarios:

1. Fulham draw against Everton AND Tottenham score six clear goals against Liverpool (not bloody likely)

2. Fulham lose against Everton.

Simply put, a win against Everton and Fulham are in Europe.

Everton, on the other hand do have something more to play for. They are only a point ahead of Aston Villa in the League. Everton's current position (5th) guarantees them automatic Europa League group stage position, where as a 6th Place finish without an FA Cup Win means a qualifying round first. Aston Villa who currently sit sixth and are on an absolute shocking run of form with one win in their last six matches, will face a Newcastle side at Villa Park. Newcastle are an even bigger shambles than Villa, but the match should be a Villa win. Newcastle are fighting for their Premiership lives (and according to rumors their financial survival). If Villa win and Everton only draws or loses to Fulham, Villa get the automatic groups stage.

There is much to resolve on the last weekend for the middle and bottom ends of the table and that will make Saturday quite eventful.

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