Weblog: The football punter

Cottagers can keep up push for Premier League

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Fulham have been relentless in cranking up the pressure on promotion rivals Cardiff and can climb into second place in the Sky Bet Championship with a comfortable victory over relegated Sunderland at Craven Cottage.

Sunderland were the last team to take maximum points off the Cottagers, winning 1-0 at the Stadium of Light in December.

But a repeat performance seems highly unlikely and the Black Cats make no appeal despite being priced up at double-figure odds.

Fulham are long odds-on and rightly so.

They are unbeaten in 22 Championship fixtures and their 2018 points tally (49 from a possible 57) is nine more than champions Wolves.

Fulham were also fast finishers last season but surprisingly lost 2-1 on aggregate to Reading in the playoff semi-finals.

Memories of that experience are driving on Slavisa Jokanovic's side, who are doing all they can to go up automatically.

They are just one point outside the top two but this weekend could be the turning point with Cardiff odds-against to win their tricky match at Hull.

Playing first could help Fulham as long as they take care of business.

Sunderland have played better football during the run-in without achieving the results they needed.

The Wearsiders have won the shot count in five of their last six games but took maximum points only once in a 4-1 win at Derby.

Their fate was decided with a 2-1 loss at home to Burton last Saturday.

Sunderland manager Chris Coleman has been pleased with some of the team's recent performances but his side have been found wanting in the defensive and attacking thirds due to a lack of quality and lapses of concentration.

Coleman admits that plans for next season are still up in the air and, until the off-field situation is resolved, there is unlikely to be a sudden on-field improvement against his former club.

Fulham could not have asked for a much easier fixture but won't want to give their opponent any unnecessary encouragement.

They had to bide their time at Millwall last Friday - weathering a first half storm before going on to win 3-0 - but will want to be on the front foot from the off against Sunderland, seeking to take advantage of a team short of quality and confidence.

It could be a Newcastle player, loanee Aleksandar Mitrovic, who piles on the misery for Sunderland.

Mitrovic's 11 goals in 15 games have been crucial in transforming Fulham from playoff hopefuls to automatic promotion contenders.

The Serbian is the warm favourite to score first but 17-year-old Ryan Sessegnon is another major goal threat, having netted 15 league goals this campaign.

Fulham should not take very long to make their extra class count and look solid odds-on shots to be leading at half-time and full-time.

Fulham-Fulham double result

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Match in Focus


Girona v Valladolid

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Girona have failed to win their last five home La Liga matches
Expert verdict
Promoted Valladolid are back in the top flight – but minus their 33-goal top scorer, Jamie Mata, who has joined Getafe. The playoff winners’ second-top scorer last term – Michel, with five – is injured and it promises to be an awkward return to the big time for Sergio Gonzalez’s men at the Montilivi where Girona took points off Atletico and Real Madrid.