Fulham’s quest to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking sees them travel to Cardiff City on Monday at 7:45pm.
The Cottagers finished fourth in the Championship, two points behind second-placed West Browmich Albion having drawn with Wigan Athletic on the final day of the regular season. Scott Parker’s side went into the match knowing their chances of automatic promotion were slim, needing both West Brom and Brentford to lose while they won, but it may still feel like a missed opportunity.
Some eight points separated Fulham from hosts Cardiff City in the table, with the Bluebirds leapfrogging Nottingham Forest on the final day thanks to their routine win at home to Hull City. For Cardiff, it’s also a chance to return to the Premier League after one season, but could also line up an all-Welsh Championship play-off final.
Which team will take the advantage into the second leg?
Cardiff & Fulham’s previous line-ups:
- Cardiff (vs Hull City): Smithies; Bacuna, Morrison, Nelson, Bennett; Ralls, Pack; Mendez-Laing, Tomlin, Hoilett; Glatzel.
- Fulham (vs Wigan Athletic): Rodak; Odoi, Hector, Ream, Bryan; Cairney, Arter; Knockaert, Onomah, Kebano; Mitrovic.
Neither side has any fresh absentees but Fulham will be able to call upon Harrison Reed after suspension.
Player to watch:
The past three seasons have been strange for Aleksandar Mitrovic, as he has both thrived and struggled when leading the line for Fulham. In 2017/18, while on loan from Newcastle United for the second half of the campaign, the Serbian scored 12 goals in 17 games to help Fulham out of the Championship and into the Premier League.
He followed that up with a disappointing season in the top flight, however, managing just 11 goals in 37 games as Fulham went immediately back down to the second tier. But, once again, Mitrovic found his feet in the Championship and finished 2019/20 as the division’s top scorer, with 26 goals in 40 appearances, helping to secure Fulham’s play-off spot.
But the pressure will be on Mitrovic to carry that scoring into the play-offs to help overcome a Cardiff side against which he has scored two goals in two games this season. Since the Championship returned from its break in June, Mitrovic hasn’t been in great form, scoring three goals in six appearances. The Serbian also missed three games through suspension after being retrospectively punished for an elbow on Ben White in Fulham’s 3-0 defeat away to Leeds at the end of June.
Should Mitrovic find the goals to get Fulham past Cardiff over the two legs and secure a final win, the Serbian will have the chance to prove he is capable of playing in the Premier League — something the 25-year-old will undoubtedly be keen to do.
Scoreline prediction: Cardiff 0-2 Fulham