Only a catastrophic collapse will deny Fulham promotion to the Premier League, with the Cottagers on the verge of making an immediate top-flight return after spending this season in the Championship following relegation in 2021.
Fulham have already seen one chance to secure automatic promotion go begging, having had the opportunity to guarantee themselves a top two finish on Friday when they faced Derby.
Nottingham Forest’s defeat to Luton earlier that day ensured that Marco Silva’s team would have mathematically secured promotion there and then had they beaten the Rams, who managed to briefly stave off relegation to League One with a win.
But Forest, who are in fifth place but have two games in hand on the two teams immediately above them, remain the only club with even a remote chance of stopping Fulham being a Premier League team once more in 2022/23 – and it would require a flawless finish from them to boot.
Third-place Huddersfield and fourth-place Luton could still pip Bournemouth to one of the two automatic promotion places but cannot now finish ahead of Fulham with so few games left.
If Forest win all five remaining fixtures, they will finish with 85 points, which is two more than Fulham currently have. Bournemouth, meanwhile, can get to 92. It is therefore still possible for both clubs to overtake Fulham, pushing the Cottagers into third – but not for long.
If Fulham win against Preston at Craven Cottage on Tuesday night, it will take their points tally beyond what Forest can mathematically achieve and guarantee at least second place and therefore automatic promotion to the Premier League.
A draw or defeat against the Lancashire club, who are in 15th place but unbeaten in their last three games, would force Fulham to wait for another game to reach the magic 86 points.
With just one win required, it is more a question of if rather than when for Fulham. But even if the Cottagers don’t do it themselves against Preston, a slip up from Forest from now on would also end the race. Fulham and Forest even meet at Craven Cottage on 26 April.
As well as automatic promotion, Fulham are also strong favourites to win the Championship title, which would be a first since 2000/01 having secured two recent promotions via the playoffs.
Fulham need 10 points to go one better than what is mathematically left for Bournemouth. They could also secure it with seven by beating the Cherries when they face each other on 23 April.
Fulham remaining Championship fixtures - 2021/22
- 19 April - Preston (H)
- 23 April - Bournemouth (A)
- 26 April - Nottingham Forest (H)
- 2 May - Luton (H)
- 7 May - Sheffield United (A)
Source : 90min