Monday, 25 January 2010

Collection point

Looking ahead to six home games (and one away game) in three weeks, I checked on the teams still to visit the Cottage. This weekend against Villa aside (although the last two seasons have seen two home wins), Fulham have a chance of filling their boots at Craven Cottage during the rest of the season.
The last 8 games could see 7 home wins (assuming a defeat by Man City - although Birmingham will be far trickier given the way they are playing).

Birmingham City
Stoke City
Manchester City
West Ham United

21 points on top of the current points tally will give 48 points, which was enough for 11th place last year. This is assuming there will be no points reaped on their travels, but only games at Hull and Bolton suggest the possibility of any.
This would suggest that Fulham will finish around about the half way point, well away from the European spots, but given the way the FA Cup and Carling Cup is shaping up it is unlikely that 7th will reap a European slot this year. I think many Fulham fans would have taken that at the start of the season, especially with qualification for the second stage of the Europa League secured.
And with participation in the last 32 of the Europa League and last 16 of the FA Cup, what can Fulham expect in the knock-out competitions? The tie against Notts County or Wigan is eminently winnable, mainly because it's at Craven Cottage. Another favourable (home) draw in the quarters could see a trip to Wembley for the semi-finals. Christ, anything goes! And as for Shaktar... have Fulham anything to lose? They're already further than expected.
Of course the one thing is is scuppering progress at the moment is the injury list which stayed remarkably short last year. It's extremely fortuitous that Hodgson strengthened the squad for Europe as it has become essential for the league.
Hangeland and Johnson have been rusty since returning from injury, but the team looks light up front and in the full back positions now. A little bit of jiggery pokery in the loan market here could pay great dividends to the team, even if it's only to recall Stoor from Derby County. James Beattie could be useful as a handful upfront and a reserve to Bobby Z. That's if Elm is not up to the job.

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