Teams who came up from the Championship at the start of the season but who have experienced very different campaigns in the top flight meet when relegation-threatened Fulham host Leeds United at Craven Cottage (8pm Friday; TV: Live on Sky Sports).
Leeds came up as champions and so it is perhaps unsurprising that they are far more comfortably placed than playoff winners Fulham ahead of the final stretch of the season. Leeds are in 12th place, 10 points clear of Fulham in 18th, the last relegation place.
It has felt like Fulham have been on the verge of getting themselves out of the bottom three for some time now without it ever quite happening. At one point, they seemed dead and buried, but a solid run of results combined with poorer runs for those ahead has moved them into a position where survival seems a realistic proposition. They are now odds-against to be relegated from the EPL.
They just haven’t quite taken that next step and leapfrogged Newcastle or Brighton ahead of them to remove themselves from the drop zone. Newcastle are two points ahead and Brighton three and both have a game in hand in Fulham. As the matches start to count down so time begins to run out for them to make concrete their hopes of survival.
It was no surprise that Scott Parker’s side were unable to come away with anything at home to Manchester City on Saturday. It was a match of very few shots (just 12 in total), but all the best chances fell City’s way. While it took them until the early exchanges of the second half to go ahead, two more goals followed before the hour to end the match as a contest.
It was the sort of match from which you just have to dust yourself down and go again, and that is exactly what Parker and his side must do in every game now. There are some tough ones to come, including four away to teams currently in the top half, two of them in the top four. If they can just stay within reasonable range or better of Newcastle, there will be one last chance on the final day of the campaign when the two teams meet at Craven Cottage.
Could points be in the offing on Friday? Leeds certainly don’t come into the match in the best of the form, with just one win in their last six and two in their last eight. They do travel south after ending a run of two consecutive defeats with a credible 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea on Saturday.
On the face of it, Marcelo Bielsa’s side were outgunned. They only mustered four shots in open play, while their visitors took over twice as many shots in total (15 to seven) and probably generated enough to have come away with all three points. Yet Leeds twice hit the woodwork and both goalkeepers were called into key action. It could have gone either way.
Despite their recent relative downturn, Leeds are still securely placed in mid table, and the top 10 isn’t unrealistically out of reach. It is more likely they will finish just outside, but even with a tough trio of matches against Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United to come through April, wins away to Fulham and at home to Sheffield United, both in the bottom three, in their next two fixtures would keep them in the hunt.
The two sides played out a seven-goal thriller when they met at Elland Road in September, with Leeds 4-1 up at one stage before Fulham rallied. It is, though, unlikely we’ll get a repeat show on Friday. While Leeds remain the most open team in the Premier League, much of Fulham’s improvement has come from the refinement of their defensive setup. Their defeat to Man City was the first time they’d conceded three or more goals since November.
Leeds’ injury issues are beginning to ease and after a bit of a rough run of results, Friday’s match could provide an ideal chance for them to get back to winning ways. Fulham might just have to wait a little longer yet to emerge from the bottom three.
So the Fulham vs Leeds betting tips’ selection for this preview is:
- Bet on Leeds to win @ 19/10 with Betfred.
Compare LUFC vs FFC Match Winner Betting Odds from the Bookies