Apr 5, 2014 at 3pm UK at ​Villa Park
Aston Villa
Holt (70')
Bennett (59'), Westwood (67'), Holtby (87')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Richardson (62'), Rodallega (86')
Sidwell (84'), Albrighton (90')

Is the great escape back on for Fulham?

Sports Mole takes a look at whether Fulham can achieve another remarkable great escape following their win at Aston Villa.

Just a week ago, following Fulham's 3-1 home defeat to Everton would have you go a long way to find someone - who was not a Fulham fan - to predict that they would survive this season. Suddenly, after a good 2-1 win away to Aston Villa, the Whites are off the bottom of the table and maybe, just maybe, in with a shout of yet another great escape.

Another interesting facet to the story is that their final six fixtures in their last unlikely survival, under Roy Hodgson in 2007-08, took place on the exact same days of the month of their current run-in. Whether this is an omen or not time will tell, but the fact is that they still face a huge task with at least three and possibly four wins required from their last five games. Here, Sports Mole looks at some of the key things that must go right for Fulham.

Fernando Amorebieta, Brede Hangeland, John Arne Riise and Kieran Richardson of Fulham celebrate at the end of the match against Aston Villa on April 5, 2014© Getty Images

1. The run-in

Of all the teams in the relegation scrap, Fulham have by far the most comfortable - on paper - run-in. Except for, perhaps, Sunderland, who have an extra three fixtures to play. Looking at the schedule it is clear that Fulham must start to win at home if they are to get the points needed. In fact, all three of Norwich City, Hull City and Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage must be turned into victories for them to stand a chance. It is a big ask, but the team spirit had returned with the appointment of Felix Magath.

Fulham's game away from home are only slightly less crucial than their Craven Cottage games, but winning one of Tottenham Hotspur or Stoke City - combined with the must-wins at home - would probably mean enough for the Whites to survive. For a team that before Saturday had lost 22 of 32 to suddenly win four or five from six is unlikely, but they have started showing a lot of fight that could be key.

2. Defence

With the amount of statistics that are against Fulham this season it is, if anything, a big surprise that they are even in with a chance of survival. They have conceded 74 Premier League goals to this point - 10 more than any other side - and they also have just four clean sheets in 33 games, which is two fewer than the next-worst. Surviving on goal difference is out of the question, so the task for the defence will be to tighten up enough to make the remaining six games winnable for the attack.

Brede Hangeland of Fulham in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Fulham at St James' Park on August 31, 2013© Getty Images

However, what Magath seems to be a strong believer in is a consistent lineup in his defence. Brede Hangeland and John Heitinga have been Magath's preferred pairing in the middle, with David Stockdale the chosen goalkeeper. Fernando Amorebieta also appears to be the first-choice left-back. The back five are still shaky at times, but they can take heart from their performance after Hugo Rodallega's goal against Aston Villa - they will need some gritty showings from now until May 11.

3. Attack

Fulham's attacking statistics might slightly - although not much - better reading for fans of the club. After the Villa win they average exactly a goal a game with 33 strikes, which interestingly is better than all three of the teams that they will most likely need to finish ahead of - Norwich, Sunderland and Cardiff City. Steve Sidwell is the unlikely top scorer and without him Fulham might already be down, but it also suggests that the attacking players have failed this season.

One player that Fulham must rely on for the rest of the season is Lewis Holtby. The on-loan Tottenham Hotspur player is far too good to be battling relegation, but in the situation he is the classiest attacking midfielder in the scrap, compared to the other teams. He set up Rodallega's winner on Saturday and should have scored himself, and with him on the pitch Fulham will be capable of scoring against anyone.

Lewis Holtby of Fulham celebrates after scoring the first Fulham goal during the Barclays Premier league match between Cardiff City and Fulham at Cardiff City Stadium on March 8, 2014© Getty Images

4. Felix Magath

On Valentine's Day, when German Magath was surprisingly appointed to the manager's job it finally looked as though the Whites had lost the plot. A second managerial change of the season with just three months left looked like a suicidal move, but in the last few games his side have looked fitter, sharper and more organised - perhaps the decision was made just in time?

The appointment was initially greeted with criticism of Magath's training methods, suggestions that he would alienate some players and push others to leave, but the German has seemed to pick up what is required very quickly. He initially trusted the senior players before quickly turning to the club's youth academy. Now he has seen which players can help him and has chosen a mix of young and experienced squad members for his last few games. All who are selected look up for the fight finally, and that has a lot to do with Magath.

Coach Felix Magath on the sidelines for a game with Bayern Munich on September 25, 2012© Getty Images

5. Rivals

Of course, with the Whites sitting 18th in the league and five points adrift of Norwich in 17th survival is still not in their hands. They will need other results to go their way from now until mid-May. Cardiff's dreadful home defeat to Crystal Palace has seen them move to 1/20 favourites for the drop, but Sunderland, Norwich and West Bromwich Albion are still in the battle.

Sunderland have three more games to play than Fulham but have a tougher run-in in terms of the teams that they play, while Norwich's last five - which includes a trip to Fulham next Saturday - is ghastly. Should they lose to Fulham, then there is a very real chance that they will not pick up any more points and 32 will almost certainly not be enough for survival. For Fulham, suddenly it is all to play for.

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