Defeat today could condemn Fulham to a fate which has been looming for weeks, so there would have been a better time for Roy Hodgson to encounter Sven Goran Eriksson, an old adversary with a score to settle.
Few managers have influenced the course of Eriksson's career more than Hodgson, who first imported the British style of play to Sweden in the mid-1970s - a style which, when Eriksson appropriated the ideas and prospered at Gothenburg, became known in the country as "Swenglish".
But Eriksson, for whom this afternoon's post-match meeting with Thaksin Shinawatra overshadows everything, remembers 1979 and a title clash with Hodgson's Halmstad side which saw his own Gothenburg team narrowly miss out on the title. A defining moment of that season came when their sides played each other. "A back pass from one of their defenders and our captain takes the ball and scores and the ref said 'offside'," Eriksson recalled. "It couldn't have been. It was a back pass. So our captain tried to kill the referee! We lost (2-1)."
Gothenburg went into the final Saturday with title hopes alive but Hodgson's side denied them with a nervy 2-0 last Saturday win against relegated AIK Stockholm. It was the start of a long friendship, though, borne of the managers' careers intertwining. Hodgson left Internazionale to take over at Blackburn after Eriksson had turned down that job and headed from Sampdoria to Lazio instead. "We would have a glass of wine [when we managed together] in Italy and Portugal,"Eriksson said. "When I was with England he came over now and then and we would go out in London, with Tord [Grip, sporting director at Malmo when Hodgson managed there.]"
Of Hodgson's predicament at Fulham, Eriksson said: "It's always difficult when you take over a team and it's not your team and you have no chance to make an impact on it. It's very difficult to buy players in January but this is a do-or-die game."
Eriksson's defensive injury crisis which has seen him recall Shaleum Logan from loan at League Two Stockport, is the lwast of his troubles. He has less time than had been anticipated to discuss the future with chairman Thaksin Shinawtra, in Manchester on a flying visit until tomorrow (sun), and if their last encounter, in March, was anything to go by, he must take his place in a procession of appointments.
"Last time I was the first on the list [of meetings] followed by the Academy, commercial people and press people,”Eriksson said. "It was a different [relationship] in Rome [with Lazio millionaire owner Sergio Cragnotti]. There, the chairman lived in Rome and he was in the ground every day. When he was at home he came up every day, more or less."