Hands up who spent much of the summer pondering how many points Marco Silva’s side would have mustered by the time the penultimate game of the season came around against Crystal Palace? I can’t have been who was running through all the permutations as early as the end of June once the fixture list was published. Nobody could have confidently predicted that the Whites would have comfortably secured safety long before the visit of Eagles to Craven Cottage – meaning that the final home fixture of the season could be a relaxing, celebratory affair. The perfectionist – and serial winner – in Silva has already tasked his squad with a final target, overhauling Fulham’s record Premier League points tally to make more history at the end of a sensational return to the top flight.

There is an added special element to this afternoon’s encounter as Palace are now led by the man who amassed 53 Premier League points in 2008/09 on the way to laying the platform for the extraordinary, and still scarcely believable, Europa League final of a year later. Roy Hodgson has steered his boyhood club to safety with a degree of comfort that seemed unimaginable when Steve Parrish and his fellow board members parted company with Patrick Vieira in March – meaning that the legendary veteran manager should be able to bask in the acclaim of the Fulham faithful once again.

The Whites ran out comfortable winners at Selhurst Park in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day against a Palace outfit that already looked like they were out of ideas under Vieira. Fulham haven’t managed a Premier League double over tomorrow’s opponents, with the Eagles having won on their last two visits to the banks of the River Thames – including a 2-1 win under Hodgson’s stewardship in 2020. Silva’s side have recovered some of their form that appeared have eluded them in the closing weeks of the season with an entertaining 5-3 win over Leicester City followed by a routine victory at Southampton last weekend that confirmed the Saints’ relegation to the Championship.

Harrison Reed spoke intriguingly yesterday of how content he was with that display against his former employers, both from a personal perspective and because it was one of Fulham’s most complete performances of the campaign. The win does leave the Fulham coaching staff with a few conundrums, chiefly over who to start up front after both Carlos Vinicius and Aleksandar Mitrovic scored on the south coast. The Brazilian forward is in fine form, having also grabbed a goal and made one in the victory over relegation-threatened Leicester City, but it will take a brave man to resist the allure of starting with Mitrovic, especially after he got back on the goal trail with a deftly directed diving header within seven minutes of stepping off the bench following his much-discussed suspension.

The goals have flowed in the last few games for Fulham, coinciding with a real return to form for Harry Wilson, who has endured an injury-hit return to the top flight. The intelligent winger seemed to suffer after managing to get back fit from a serious knee injury to head to Qatar for the World Cup with Wales in the winter but has been in fine fettle since scoring his first goal of the season at Everton last month. Wilson played a pivotal part in the win at Southampton, setting up both the goals with his cross for Mitrovic’s goalscoring return a real peach. He adds intelligence, vision and excellent delivery to the right flank when he is on form and his strong end to the season will be a real boost for Silva as he prepares for what will surely be a tougher second season among English football’s elite.

Already the focus seems to be switching to who might be on the head coach’s shopping list for the summer but Silva has been at pains to point out that this campaign is not done and dusted yet. In an excellent campaign, Fulham have surpassed even the most optimistic benchmarks for a newly-promoted side, especially with the club’s recent history of struggle when returning to the Premier League. They have already set new club records for top flight wins in total (15) and away victories (7). The Whites need a single goal in their last two matches to make this their most successful goalscoring campaign in the top tier and can secure a fourth London derby triumph, which would be another club record in the top flight, with victory over Palace tomorrow.

Hodgson sounded pessimistic about the chances of Wilfred Zaha recovering from the hamstring injury he sustained last weekend before the end of the season – raising the prospect of their talisman having played his last game for the club. Fulham’s task will definitely be easier without facing a man who has terrorised them on numerous occasions over the past five years and the Eagles’ injury list is fairly substantial as it includes Nathan Ferguson, Luka Milivojevic and James Tomkins with Jeffrey Schlupp will also miss this clash for personal reasons.

It should be an afternoon to savour at the Cottage. Silva’s side have served up a special season full of attacking and attractive football and will determined to finish off their home programme on a high. The players and the coaching staff deserve a carnival atmosphere as they chase three more points in their quest to finish as high up the Premier League table as possible on what promises to be a beautiful day in SW6.

MY FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Tete, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Diop; Palhinha, Reed; Wilson, Willian, Cairney; Mitrovic. Subs: Rodak, Cedric Soares, Duffy, Lukic, Decordova-Reid, Solomon, James, Vinicius.