Fulham boss Chris Coleman believes his side go to Stamford Bridge to play champions elect Chelsea still needing two points to make absolutely sure of beating off the threat of relegation from the Premier League.
Coleman knows the task for his team could not be tougher but one small bonus, in his eyes, is that Jose Mourinho’s team cannot clinch the title on Saturday after being held to a draw by Arsenal on Wednesday night.
“They are going to be the champions sooner or later but thankfully they can’t do it on Saturday.
“It’s a big relief. We don’t want to be going there to see them turn us over and celebrate. It would be hard to swallow,” said Coleman, who believes his side would be virtually safe but for the controversial decision by referee Rob Styles to award Middlesbrough the penalty which enabled them to salvage a 1-1 home draw against his team on Wednesday.
Coleman, who revealed that Styles had phoned Fulham secretary Lee Hoos to apologise for his error, was so incensed at the time that he had to be held back as he went on to the pitch to protest.
But he has since said: “It’s in the past, it happened. We can’t change the decision, it’s disappointing. We deserved three points, we got one.
“It was a bad decision, simple as that, and we have got to live with that and hopefully on Saturday, unlike the last three games we have played in, there won’t be any major decisions given against us.”
Fulham’s young manager believes that clearcut refereeing errors have cost his side “possibly five or six points” this season and that the latest could have hit the club to the tune of £1million.
“The decision the other night could cost us two places in the league, a million quid. We are talking about a lot of money,” said Coleman, who side will once again be without the injured duo of striker Andy Cole and Senegal midfield Papa Bouba Diop for the visit to Stamford Bridge.
But Cole’s absence gives 19-year-old Dutch international Collins John another opportunity to impress in the starting line-up.
“It’s his chance. He’s not a shy boy, Collins, and he’s not backwards in coming forwards and telling you that he should be playing and telling everybody else so he’s getting his chance to see what he’s made of,” said Coleman who is under no illusions about the size of the task his team faces on Saturday.
“It’s going to be very hard. If you sit back or attack they can hurt you both ways. We just have to make sure our 11 guys are ready for it because it’s going to be a tough game.
“We’ve had some tight games with Chelsea in the last couple of years but this is the strongest Chelsea team I’ve seen. Definitely they’ve been the best team this season, they will be worthy winners,” he said.
But, whatever the outcome on Saturday, Coleman is confident that his side will steer clear of relegation trouble.
“The teams below us have basically got to win three out of four and bear in mind some of them are playing each other. We have three home games and we’ve not lost since the turn of the year at home.
“I think if we get another win that should put it to bed. We are in a strong position but until it is mathematically impossible you are always looking over your shoulder,” he added.