Reading manager Steve Coppell believes Fulham will finally have to resign themselves to relegation if they fail to win at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.

The Royals are not yet out of danger but possess a six-point cushion over third-bottom Bolton, with five fixtures remaining for all of the clubs who still find themselves in danger.

Fulham are six points adrift of fourth-bottom Birmingham and Coppell was convinced that failure to make a significant cut into that deficit would leave the Cottagers with too much to do.

He said: “Both teams need to win but Fulham need to win more. It would be very difficult for them to get out if they don’t win.

“In a game like this there is always an element of nerves, an element of bottle and of people just being prepared to get a result come what may. And as the games in Europe showed this week, a lot can happen in 90 minutes – referees, injuries, slips. These things can determine a game.

“But whichever team has the most stickability is the one that will come though on Saturday.”

Coppell has challenged his players to reach the 40-point barrier, which usually signifies that a team is safe.

He said: “I have been convinced for weeks and weeks that we are capable of getting 40 points and I still think we are. That’s always the magical figure and if we don’t I will be disappointed come what may.”

But he also admitted: “I wish we were higher up the table. There are seven or eight managers who are uncomfortable and I am one of them. I wish it was more of a mid-table mediocrity, going nowhere game but there is a real edge to this one.”

Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann admitted he was not keen on the prospect of helping to eject Fulham from the Premier League.

The American spent three seasons at Craven Cottage, where his USA team-mates Kasey Keller, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride and Eddie Johnson are all regular starters.

He said: “Games against Fulham are always meaningful for me. When we play them it is always pretty entertaining for the American boys and the winners get the banter rights.

“But this time I almost want to downplay it. I’ll feel like that especially when I see the guys at Fulham on Saturday because the game has so much meaning to us both.

“I am good friends with them. I see Kasey every once in a while, we end up going to shows together and hanging out. So in some ways it won’t be a happy day for me if we win, I could help send my buddies down to the Championship.

“But we need the points to get us closer to safety. We don’t want to keep looking over our shoulders. We need at least one more win, and the sooner it comes the better.”