Fulham talked the executioner into one more week of hope after last weekend's 1-0 victory over Newcastle at Craven Cottage. The Whites finally benefited from the sort of luck that has eluded them all season as Ashkan Dejagah's second half strike found its way under the normally reliable Tim Krul's hands for the game's loan goal and legitimate claims for a Newcastle penalty in the dying minutes went unheeded.
One gets the sense that Felix Magath has been a shrewd and unemotional analyst of the personalities he inherited from Mssrs. Jol and Meulensteen and has quickly decided who is and who is not the sort of man he can trust to drag the club up from the depths of looming relegation, such has been the shake up of personnel selection and the roles assigned to those in the match day squads.
Let's not kid ourselves though. Fulham still have it all to do and if the West London club is to avoid relegation, an unlikely result against a club like Manchester City is a near necessity. Sunderland, Crystal Palace, and West Bromwich Albion all have at least one game in hand over the Cottagers and even wins against all of the clubs Fulham has yet to play in the bottom half of the table would still make for an incredibly nervy end to this Premier League season.
For all of their transcendent talent, City are a club prone to the odd head scratcher, although the most recent such match against Wigan was in the FA Cup rather than the league. Still, a back line marshalled by Martin Demichelis, especially in the absence of Vincent Kompany who will be serving a one match ban for his takedown of Nikica Jelavic last weekend, is a back line that will allow chances. Whether or not Fulham can take advantage of said chances while also remaining tight at the back is another matter altogether.
Manchester City are also likely to be without the services of Sergio Aguero who picked up a hamstring injury in the midweek match against Barcelona, although, given City's other world class attacking talents, his absence is not nearly as significant to the Sky Blues' cause as that of Kompany.
For their part, Fulham will be without last week's hero as Ashkan Dejagah suffered a recurrence of the muscle strain that kept him out of the starting XI against Newcastle. Additionally, Kostas Mitroglou and Scott Parker remain sidelined with knee injuries.
The big question for Magath is whether he keeps the faith with the same side that won all three points at home against Newcastle or makes changes to the 4-2-3-1 he deployed against the Magpies in order to try to weather the sort of attacking onslaught City are capable of unleashing.
Given the sides Magath has selected so far in his short reign as Fulham manager, I expect there to be tweaks and amendments, although after his stellar display in goal against Newcastle, I would be surprised if David Stockdale suddenly found himself on the bench again.
On paper, this looks like an easy day out for Manuel Pellegrini and company, but Fulham aren't dead yet and the sort of character players like Steve Sidwell showed last weekend have created the faintest spark of belief among the Fulham faithful, this writer included. If Magath can find a way to arrange his team so that the manic creativity of David Silva and the driving power of Yaya Toure are somewhat contained, Fulham have an opportunity to get something from this match.
A loss would not be the end of the world, but it would certainly heap more pressure on the already pressure filled upcoming fixtures against Norwich, Hull, Stoke, and Crystal Palace. Brace yourselves, have a pint, and proceed with cautious optimism.