Beware the Ides of March.
A depleted Newcastle squad travels to Craven Cottage Saturday to take on a Fulham side that looks for all the world to be destined to League Championship football next season.
You know the mantra by now. Tomorrow's match is a must win if Fulham are to cling to any chance of Premier League survival. It's been the defining theme of the club since Rene Meulensteen's premature sacking and will remain so until Fulham are mathematically eliminated from Britain's top tier of club football.
Perhaps the cruelty of this season's table lies in the fact that said mathematical relegation may very well not take place until the final match or two, stringing Fulham supporters along in the hopes that this season's vintage may find the unexpected form of the 2008 squad and stay up in a final fit of quality.
This writer, regrettably, has come to believe that Fulham's fate was sealed when Meulensteen was shown the exit door. Signs of life and an influx of new players were replaced by turmoil, inconsistency, and a return to trial and error that the club simply does not have the time to entertain. Felix Magath is undoubtedly a respected manager capable of reforming a club in crisis, but not on such short notice - not without a period of adjustment.
With Fulham's closest rivals in the race to avoid relegation having games in hand on the Cottagers, a win against Newcastle is the only result that will do. The Magpies will be without Loic Remy and Mathieu Debuchy with Davide Santon and Hatem Ben Arfa also doubts. Alan Pardew will be serving his ban after the Newcastle boss head-butted David Meyler in the match against Hull City. For Fulham, Giorgos Karagounis, Scott Parker, and Ashkan Dejagah are all doubts.
Predictions regarding tactics and personnel are largely moot at this point and will remain so until Magath is able to settle on a system that points to a conclusion other than the emerging truth that Fulham are going down. Sorry to be so brief and blunt, but brevity is the soul of wit and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes.