This weekend, Crystal Palace travel to Craven Cottage to take on the already relegated Fulham in the final game of the season. Fulham finally succumbed to the drop when they lost 4-1 to Stoke last weekend. They must now make plans to rebuild and come back at the first attempt to the Premier League.
Crystal Palace have been excellent since Tony Pulis took over and they secured their safety a number of weeks ago. Monday night saw them come back with 10 minutes remaining from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Liverpool. The character that Palace showed is that which has embodied them since Pulis has taken over, and the Eagles want to finish the season on a high with a win against a Fulham side lacking confidence.
Fulham will only be missing one player for the fixture in the injured Damien Duff. Duff will be missing with a knee injury. With Fulham’s relegation confirmed, a number of youth prospects could make the squad and line up. Dan Burn, Moussa Dembele and Cauley Woodrow could all be involved.
Crystal Palace should have no injury concerns going into the fixture. On loan striker Cameron Jerome missed Monday’s game against Liverpool with illness and is expected to be in the squad for the fixture. Dwight Gayle could be expected to start after his excellent cameo in the game against Liverpool.
When the two teams met in earlier in the season the Whites were victorious 4-1 at Selhurst Park. The game saw a goal of the season contender from Pajtim Kasami which will live long in the memory. The game will also be remembered as then Ian Holloway’s last game in charge of Crystal Palace before Tony Pulis took over.
The only Premier League fixture at Craven Cottage between these teams was a 3-1 win for Fulham. That game took place in January 2005 and the only survivor from the fixture is Crystal Palace’s Julian Speroni. Crystal Palace’s last league win at Craven Cottage came in 1986 in the old Second Division when they won 3-2. That is their only win at Craven Cottage in their last 10 fixtures there.
Dwight Gayle had an excellent cameo appearance on Monday Night against Liverpool. The former Peterborough player came off the bench to scored two goals for the Eagles which brought the score back to 3-3 in a manic 10 minute spell. It has been a tough first Premier League season for Gayle, but for a player who was playing non-league football two seasons ago he has fared extremely well. Of his five goals this season, three have come against Liverpool. One of the other goals was a late winner against Aston Villa which secured his side a valuable three points. Although not used much by Pulis, he clearly has an eye for goal and will be a valuable player for Palace to have around as they go into their second season in the Premier League.
Steve Sidwell has been one of Fulham’s better performers in a season where they were ultimately relegated from the Premier League. The former Aston Villa man has displayed a lot of heart and tenacity in the centre of midfield. Sidwell has started 35 of the Cottagers 38 games, and has been a mainstay under all the managers that Fulham have had this season. He has had a fairly decent open play pass completion percentage of 83%. He has also not been afraid to put in tackles for his team with 118 and a success rate of 76%. Another important feature of Sidwell’s game has been the goals that he has brought from midfield this season. Sidwell is Fulham’s top scorer with 7 Premier League goals. This is essentially part of the reason they went down, as they did not have a striker who could get the goals they needed to stay up. Nevertheless, Sidwell chipped in with a fair amount and his contribution did not get what he deserved in a Fulham shirt this season.
The game itself means nothing for either team. There are many dead rubber fixtures at the end of the season, but many believed that this would be a relegation decider on the final day. That has not been the case, but it does not mean that the game will not throw up a thriller or surprise. I predict a 2-2 draw for this fixture.