SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Keiren Westwood of Sunderland (R) competes with Clint Dempsey of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Fulham at Stadium of Light on November 19, 2011 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
It's a sobering thought that Sunday's fixture at home to Sunderland could be the last time we see Clint Dempsey at Craven Cottage in white shirt. There have been moments over the past two years where you're left wondering quite where Fulham would be without his incandescent influence and impetus and, even before he began to shine quite so wondrously, we all knew this man had some boundless potential and that, some day, he'd be a player well worth writing home about.
Everything good thing must come to an end, however, and although it's saddening to think it, Dempsey probably has another chapter to his life that he, deservingly, would like to fulfil. For all it's worth, he needs a send off on Sunday afternoon that would be worthy of any Fulham legend.
Perhaps it won't come to that, but you get the feeling that that would be wishful thinking. If we push remembrance from the foreground, though, we have ourselves our final home game of the season and an opportunity to solidify a top ten finish ahead of what will be a daunting visit to a newly rejuvenated Tottenham Hotspur on the final day. Sunderland won't provide quite the same test but it will be a challenging encounter nonetheless.
They travel south in poor form, having not won since mid-March and having inherited an infectious trait for the infamous 0-0 draw. Throughout April, they had three goalless matches. Their last fixture showed more promise as they held a resilient and battle-hardened Bolton Wanderers to a 2-2 draw.
Fulham will come into this tie in a far more buoyant manner, coming back off of a 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield. The match wasn't a hugely entertaining affair but Fulham put in a splendid performance and completed the season's double over their Merseyside opponents. Martin Jol's side have picked up 13 points from a possible 18 since the end of March.
In the reverse fixture this season, at the Stadium of Light, the two sides played out a 0-0 draw and the same occurred last year at Craven Cottage. It doesn't look too promising.
The Mackems' John O'Shea and Nicklas Bendtner are fighting for fitness ahead of the tie and both men will be assessed before kick off. Titus Bramble is likely to miss out while Kieron Richardson and Sebastian Larsson are out for the remainder of the season.
Team prediction: Schwarzer; Riise, Hanegeland, Hughes, Kelly; Frei, Murphy, Dembele, Duff; Dempsey; Pogrebnyak
Score prediction: Fulham 1-0 Sunderland