The end of the Sky Bet Championship season is hotting up as Fulham welcome Cardiff City to Craven Cottage in an affair that could define both clubs’ seasons.
Fulham have given themselves a brilliant chance of surviving in the division, as they have recorded back-to-back 2-1 victories over Preston North End and fellow strugglers MK Dons.
The West London club’s recent success was no more than they have deserved over the past week, and they have eased their relegation worries by moving seven points adrift of the bottom three.
Meanwhile at the other end of the table, the visitors today Cardiff will be scrapping for every point that they can in the race for the top six.
In the midweek fixture against the table-toppers Burnley, they secured a credible 0-0 result at Turf Moor, but they can’t afford to drop any more points as games are running out fast.
This is a pivotal clash for both sides for different reasons, but a win for Fulham could see them climb three places into 16th, while Cardiff will remain in seventh place, only a point off Derby County in sixth, if they win at Craven Cottage and the Rams suffer defeat against Bolton Wanderers.
FootballLeagueWorld writer Ashley Williams identifies THREE things to look out for in this afternoon’s game..
1) Does victory for Fulham secure their Championship status?
Fulham’s recent rise of form will be revelation to the supporters, and they will now be confident that they can upset Cardiff.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s men had gone five games without a win, three of them being losses, before their revival.
They will be chasing their third consecutive victory today, and Jokanovic has really got his side united and playing well.
I think if the bottom three all lose today and Fulham win, then a ten point gap will be more than enough to ensure that they are safe.
The Serbian’s next worry will be whether he can keep hold of his prized assets, Moussa Dembele and Ross McCormack, who are both expected to leave Craven Cottage in the summer.
2) Could defeat for Cardiff end their play off chase?
It’s all or nothing for the Bluebirds at the moment, and that play-off spot will depend on whether they secure as many points as possible, and hope that Derby and Sheffield Wednesday start to crumble under pressure.
With the Owls unbeaten in five games, winning four of them on that run, the Bluebirds will be hoping that Derby will replicate their final day blunders from last season.
This won’t be an easy day for Cardiff, as Fulham are high in confidence and need the points as much as they do.
Derby play Bolton on Saturday and, with the Rams likely to seal Bolton’s fate to League One, the Welsh side need to secure three points, as a ten point gap could be too much for them to catch up.
3) Dembele and McCormack threat
Without these pair, Fulham would be doomed as their goals have saved their season, which has seen them linked with a move away.
Cardiff will be aware of McCormack’s formidable presence during his time in South Wales. The Scottish striker scored 25 goals in 74 games for Cardiff before he made the move to Leeds United.
Manager Russell Slade feels it will be key to Cardiff’s chances to isolate Fulham’s prolific strike force as they visit West London.
McCormack is the second-highest scorer in the Championship with 21 goals, while Dembele has 14.
Fulham have been very shaky at the back all season which could prove to be thrilling game at Craven Cottage, if the Scottish and Frenchman are in the mood.
Fulham and Cardiff fans… What are your score predictions? What do you make of Fulham’s recent turn in form? Can Cardiff fight for the top six? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!