Fulham on the verge of Premier League return in front of Craven Cottage crowd


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Marco Silva’s Whites have been imperious all season, but have found getting over the promotion line difficult. With results elsewhere, the West London side can finally confirm Premier League football with a win over midtable Preston North End. 

The tale of Fulham’s last five seasons has been one of mixed emotions. This season is likely to mark their third promotion in since 2018, where the Whites were promoted in a tight final with Aston Villa. 

However, for every moment of elation in the Championship has come bitter disappointment in the Premier League. 

The first attempt at reaffirming their position in the Premier League saw the Cottagers spend over £100m in an attempt to build a squad capable of staying in the league and even pushing for higher accolades. Just 26 points in 38 games resulted in an immensely expensive failure, that saw Slavisa Jokanovic sacked and Claudio Ranieri come and go in the space of just three months. 

A club legend in the form of Scott Parker then took the reigns, first on an interim and latterly on a permanent basis. This induced a subsequent air of optimism around the club, with a positive end to the 2018/2019 campaign building into the return to the Championship. 

Despite an emphatic start though, Fulham would go on to miss out on automatic promotion by just two points, and would once again be faced with the task of getting through the play-offs. 

After edging past Cardiff City in the semi-finals, the Whites would face a behind closed doors West London derby at Wembley Stadium to decipher who would play Premier League football in 2020/2021. 

Extra time strikes from Joe Bryan resulted in yet another promotion and more hope that this time the club could stabilise themselves in the top flight. 

Sadly, it was another familiar tale of underwhelming results and too little too late for Scott Parker and his side, achieving just two more points than in their previous campaign to be condemned to second-tier football once again. 

The departure of Scott Parker surprised some, but the appointment of Marco Silva was unquestionably a statement of intent for the season to come. Once again, the team is near on identical to those in previous seasons for Fulham, but with young players like Fabio Carvalho breaking through paired with shrewd loan acquisitions such as Neco Williams, the Whites have been able to pull clear at the top of the championship. 

Of course, the story of the club’s season has been their immense goal scoring record, spearheaded by none other than Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbian’s 38 goals have gone an incredible way into almost ensuring Premier League football for Fulham once again. 

Nottingham Forest’s Easter Monday demolition of West Brom has prolonged Fulham’s fate, but now the Cottagers have the chance to get promoted in front of their home fans. 

Standing between them and the Premier League are Ryan Lowe’s Preston North End. 

Failed play-off pushes in 2017/2018 and 2019/2020 have been the only form of variation for Preston in what has been a somewhat mundane spell in the Championship upon returning in 2015. 

The Lancashire outfit have seen a run of finishes in the other seasons that suggest stagnation (11th,11th,13th and currently 15th). However, operating on a limited budget, an argument can certainly be made for the sustainability of the project. 

Despite the Lillywhites league position, a win could lift them into 12th and remarkably only five points of the play-offs with three games to go, thus keeping alive hopes of a very unlikely gatecrash of the play-offs. 

Following a disappointing start to April at Pride Park, North End have since gone on to win a Lancashire derby against Blackpool before getting the better of play-off hopefuls Queens Park Rangers. In the last outing for Lowe’s side, the points were shared with Millwall in a game that could have sparked a genuine play-off push had Preston obtained all three. 

Fulham have no new injury concerns ahead of this game, with Terence Kongolo remaining the only senior player out with injury. 

Meanwhile, Preston are still without Tom Barkhuizen, Isiah Brown, and Ryan Ledson who are all still missing with long term injuries. As well as this Alan Browne is questionable after he went off injured in the first half against Millwall, and it is unknown whether Emil Riis will be fit enough to return to action. 

On average this season, Preston have had a tendency to concede a goal for every one that they score, but against a team with 95 goals in 41 games, Preston’s defence is going to be key to them getting a result in this game. 

Should they shut Fulham out, they will have to rely on players such as Aston Villa loanee Cameron Archer to take their chances if they are to head back up to Lancashire with all three points. 

For Fulham, only a win will do to secure promotion on the night, and Marco Silva will be looking for a reaction off the back of two disappointing defeats to Coventry City and Derby County. 

Should Aleksandar Mitrovic bag a brace, then he will earn back his incredible record of scoring a goal for every game he has played in this season. 

There will be drama, tension and excitement on Thamesside for this game, that much remains undoubted. However, will Fulham fans be partying late into the night upon a return to the Premier League? Or will they be left biting their nails with a tough run in to come? 

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