Crystal Palace-Fulham Preview


Both Crystal Palace and Fulham have nowhere of consequence to go on the Premier League table entering the final matchday of the season, but the feeling will be quite a bit more sombre for the home side.

Fulham enter their final top-flight match Sunday at Craven Cottage before their 13-year run in the Premier League comes to an end.

"It's the last game and we want to go out on a high," midfielder Ashkan Dejagah told the team's official website.

Relegation became definite for Fulham (9-4-24) on May 3 with a 4-1 loss at Stoke City as their back line faltered once again. They've allowed nine goals in three matches.

"Saturday was a horrible day and I'm still in shock," Dejagah said. "At the start of the season we'd never have thought we were going to go down. We were confident we could have a good campaign. But as the season went on, it became more real and even though our form picked up, we just didn't do enough to survive."

It's unlikely to be manager Felix Magath's last game with the club after he announced Tuesday his desire to stay on next season in the Championship. Magath took over in February, at which point relegation was already a distinct possibility for the struggling Cottagers.

"I was not only brought in until the end of the season, with the primary target of keeping Fulham in the Premier League, but to build a team that can compete in the top flight," Magath said. "The reality is that we have been relegated, but my commitment and desire to Fulham remains."

Palace (13-5-19) experienced a more drastic turn when they made a change at the top by bringing in manager Tony Pulis in November. The Eagles had won twice in 12 matches before Pulis came on. Since, they're 11-4-10. And since March 29, Palace have taken 76.2 percent of possible points (16 of 21), the best percentage in the Premier League in that time, just ahead of likely title winners Manchester City (17 of 24, 70.8 percent).

That transformation was never more evident than in the final minutes of Monday's 3-3 draw with Liverpool as the Eagles rallied from three down to end their season at Selhurst Park in thrilling fashion, all but ending the Reds' title hopes.

Luis Suarez made it 3-0 in the 55th minute, and it took until the 79th for Damien Delaney to get Palace's first. Substitute Dwight Gayle added one two minutes later and completed his brace in the 88th to stun Brendan Rodgers' side.

"At 3-0 you're staring down the barrel. When we got the first goal I actually thought we'd have a squeak," Pulis said. "Then the support, everything, took off. It was amazing."

The draw, however, likely ended the Eagles' shot at a top-10 finish. They can do no worse than 11th, but for Palace to climb into the top half of the table, they'd need a win, a loss from Pulis' old team, Stoke, and a recovery from a seven-goal deficit in differential.

That would require quite a turnaround from their last meeting with Fulham. Palace fell 4-1 to the Cottagers on Oct. 21 at Selhurst Park.

At that time, it was widely thought Palace, in the middle of a seven-match losing streak, might be the side destined for relegation. Things have certainly turned, and they now head into their final away fixture with maximum points in their last three road games.

"Palace have had a very good season," Dejagah added. "When we beat them 4-1 in October everyone thought they would be going down but they've surprised a lot of people. But our team is ready for the weekend and we want to end the season with a win."

Following through with that win would ensure Fulham, who enter the weekend a point ahead of Cardiff City, don't finish at the bottom of the table.

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