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Cottagers' charge sets up a tense battle to avoid Premier League relegation

Newcastle, Brighton and Burnley dragged into danger zone

Scott Parker could not keep Fulham afloat
1 of 1

As the Premier League field turned for home this season, three runners were well adrift of the rest.

Sheffield United had missed the break, taking just two points from their first 17 games, and remained tailed off while West Brom were still outpaced despite swapping Slaven Bilic for Sam Allardyce mid-race.

Fulham were plodding on gamely but last season's Championship playoff winners appeared to be outclassed at the highest level.

In the last month, however, the spring-heeled Cottagers picked up crucial victories over Everton, Sheffield United and Liverpool, pushing out their relegation odds from 3-10 to 2-1.

Newcastle were 7-2 for the drop on February 12 but are now just 11-10, while Brighton have been cut from 25-1 into 6-1 and as short as 7-2 with one firm, and both clubs can feel Fulham's hot breath on their collars.

And 8-1 shots Burnley are just four points above the bottom three with ten games remaining after the Cottagers re-ignited a survival scrap that had looked all but over.

Resurgent Fulham roaring towards 40 points  

The magical 40-point mark has long been debunked as the target required to stay in the top flight but where will the cut line fall this season?

Bet365 offer 4-6 that this season's 18th-placed team amass 35 or more points. It is 11-10 that whoever finishes third from bottom wins 34 points or fewer. 

West Ham were relegated with 42 points from 38 matches in 2002-03 and in 1992-93 Crystal Palace went down with 49 points from 42 games.

In the last ten years, however, only once has 40 points been needed for safety: in 2010-11 when Birmingham finished 18th on 39 points. The last four teams to end up third from bottom  Hull, Swansea, Cardiff and Bournemouth  had tallies of 34, 33, 34 and 35.

Fulham currently occupy the final spot in the relegation zone with 26 points from 28 games. That average of 0.93 points per game equates to 35 points over the course of a full season but they have taken 14 points from their last ten league fixtures. Maintaining that form over their final ten games would take them to 40 – not bad for a team rated 11-4 to stay up in mid-February.

Injury-hit Toon in serious trouble 

Last weekend's results left the prospects for the bottom two looking even bleaker.

Sheffield United lost at home to Southampton, who had taken one point from the previous 27 available, and West Brom's must-win fixture against Newcastle ended goalless.

Earlier in the week, furious Toon boss Steve Bruce had used the term "treason" to describe stories being leaked to the press. However, it is hardly a state secret to reveal that Newcastle, who host Aston Villa on Friday, are struggling for goals without the injured Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin.

Mario Lemina's first-half strike earned 15-2 shots Fulham a 1-0 victory at Liverpool, taking them level on points with Brighton, who conceded a late goal to lose 2-1 at home to Leicester.

Yet again, the Seagulls were easy on the eye and they took a well-deserved lead during an excellent first-half display. However, scrappy wins, rather than pretty football and impressive xG stats, are desperately needed now.

Clarets not toasting survival just yet

Fulham conceded ten goals in their first three games of the season but their recent renaissance has been built on a superb defensive record.

Saturday's clash with Manchester City is another big test for their back four and they have scored only eight times in 14 home games.

However, they have been consistently competitive since before Christmas, suffering only four narrow defeats to Chelsea, Manchester United, Leicester and Tottenham in their last 17 games, so there is no fluke about their improved results.

Brighton claimed 1-0 wins over Leeds, Spurs and Liverpool in the space of four games at the end of January and the start of February and bookmakers expect them to start converting their luckless defeats into victories.

That would leave Newcastle, who travel to Craven Cottage on the final day, in serious danger while Burnley face four away games in their next five fixtures as well as a crunch clash with the Magpies on April 10.

The Clarets have scored only eight goals in 13 away games this term so they are unlikely to have their flip-flops on by the time they head to Fulham on May 8.


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The last four teams to end up third from bottom – Hull, Swansea, Cardiff and Bournemouth – had tallies of 34, 33, 34 and 35
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