Fulham host Arsenal on the final day of the Premier League season, with European qualification an issue for both clubs.Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa last week, coupled with Manchester City’s 3-0 win over Stoke on Tuesday, means Arsene Wenger’s team are down to fourth.
If Arsenal finish fourth, they will miss out on an automatic Champions League qualification berth and be forced to take their chances in the qualifying rounds.
While Arsenal’s task is obvious – win and hope City drop points at Bolton – Fulham have a more unusual scenario to confront.
They are the highest-ranked team on the Premier League fair-play table not to have already secured European qualification.
Barring a high count of red or yellow cards in Sunday’s match, they could find themselves in the Europa League next season.
Rather than a welcome bonus, taking part in the competition may prove to be a distraction Mark Hughes’ squad could do without.
Fulham reached the inaugural final of the rebadged Europa League in 2010, but the campaign took its toll on the team’s Premier League form – they finished 12th, down five places from the previous season.
Hughes has guided the team to eighth in his first season in charge, overcoming serious injuries to key players along the way.
Rather than risk stalling their progress by taking on the demand of additional midweek matches and European travel, a flurry of bookings or perhaps even a red card at Craven Cottage might be a convenient solution to Fulham’s unwanted dilemma.
Relegation-threatened Blackpool, who may be in the Championship next season, are next in line to inherit the Europa League fair-play berth.
Fulham have no new injury worries to contend with, only winger Damian Duff (Achilles) is unavailable.
Arsenal are without goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and midfielder Abou Diaby, while Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and captain Cesc Fabregas are in doubt.