Cardiff basement battle is last chance for floundering Fulham
What do Felix Magath and Roy Hodgson have in common? They both lost their first home Premier League match in charge of Fulham to Chelsea.
It took current England boss Hodgson five attempts to get his first win in west London. German gaffer Magath will be hoping it’s third time lucky as he takes Fulham to Cardiff City in the basement battle.
The Craven Cottage club have actually taken one more point on their travels than at home this term.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Bluebirds, meanwhile, have scored just five Premier League goals on their own turf in eight games, since holding his former club Manchester United to a 2-2 draw in November under predecessor Malky Mackay.
All have been scored by different players, but Coral are undeterred by shot-shy Cardiff – or the fact they’ve picked up a paltry four points from 21 on offer since Solskjaer took charge – as they make them 13/10 favourites to win.
That would fail to lift them out of the bottom three because of inferior goal difference, but it may seal Fulham’s fate.
Magath’s men are 2/1 shots to earn a fourth away win of the season, but failure to do so looks terminal for their top-flight status because of the run-in. Even the most optimistic Fulham fan will struggle to see where points will come from in their remaining matches in March.
Clashes with Newcastle United, Manchester City and Everton – all top half teams – could well see the Cottagers truly cut adrift. A trip to Aston Villa and hosting Norwich City, a side Fulham always seem to beat, are more forgiving fixtures before Easter, but these winnable games come too late.
After tackling Tottenham in a televised match, Magath entertains Hull City, who may have reached safety by then. A tough trip to Stoke City before a final day derby with Crystal Palace completes Fulham’s programme.
There are points up for grabs here, but lose to Solskjaer’s side and 36 is the absolute maximum they can realistically attain.
Despite Cardiff struggling to score and the traditionally poor away Premier League performances by Fulham, one thing that is virtually guaranteed here is goals. The last no score draw came way back in 1974.
A repeat of that is remote at 11/1. Although punters may be tempted by odds of 12/5 on the spoils being shared, such an outcome does neither team any favours and may ultimately relegate both. Back both teams to belie their awful records in attack, and here’s why.
Each of the last seven meetings, and 10 of 11, have seen the net bulge three times or more. In among those have been scorelines of 3-3, 4-1, 4-2 and 5-2. Odds on the total goals being over 4.5 look attractive at 6/1, then.
Solskjaer’s pledge to persist with a 3-5-2 formation will result in something of styles clash between the Bluebirds and Fulham, who have played with one up in both their matches under Magath.
Winning in Wales will be tough for the visitors, though, because January signing Kostas Mitroglou still lacks match fitness, while Damien Duff and William Kvist have joined Fernando Amorebieta and Scott Parker on the sidelines.
Magath remains adamant he can keep Fulham up. Injuries to senior players like those above look like being the final nail in their Premier League coffin. Even if they can beat Cardiff, going down is still a distinct possibility.
That odds-on price of 3/10 for Fulham being relegated, no matter what the outcome in the basement battle, may be your best bet.