Stamford Bridge, London
21st September, 17:30 BST
Chelsea FC will experience their first SW London derby of the season when the somewhat dejected hosts welcome Fulham for another tea time kickoff at Stamford Bridge today. Critics will state that this is the first the time Jose Mourinho will face the heat and pressure of a fixture since re-joining the blues in summer. On the other hand, Fulham and Martin Jol would be hoping to cash in their hosts’ poor run of form.
Chelsea made a good start to their campaign this season, but it has started to go downhill after their loss to Bayern Munich in the Super Cup. They have now lost three games in a row, including a disappointing 1-2 defeat at the hands of Basel in the Champions League clash at Stamford Bridge. In their Premier League last game they lost 1-0 to Everton, after an insipid performance upfront.
Fulham started their season with a 1-0 away victory against Sunderland, but followed that up with two defeats in a row. In their last match they missed a brilliant opportunity to grab another victory as Steve Sidwell’s goal gave them a lead against West Brom. They protected that lead for most part of the match, but conceded late in the 92nd minute and dropped points.
It is hard to bet against Chelsea grabbing all three points in this fixture despite their recent run of results. Betfair are offering odds of 2/7 for a victory for the home side. Anything other than a Chelsea win will be an upset and there is 19/4 odds on Fulham grabbing a draw and a massive odds of 57/5 for an unlikely victory for the away side.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Jose Mourinho doesn’t have any injury concerns ahead of this fixture, but that perhaps adds to his selection headaches ahead of this game. It is clear that the Portuguese manager is yet to figure out his best eleven, especially in midfield and in attack.
Mourinho is expected to make four changes to the starting eleven that was fielded in the midweek loss to Basel in the Champions League. John Terry will make his way back into the center of the defence alongside Gary Cahill. David Luiz has been a bit of liability defensively this season and will need to bring in a lot more discipline into this game.
Jose has tried a lot of combination in the double pivot already this season and it is clear that most of Chelsea’ problems have arrived from the fact that none of his midfielders have performed up to the expected level in that role. Frank Lampard is likely to retain his place in the side, while Marco van Ginkel is dropped in favour of Ramires. Mikel remains an option, but he hasn’t been in best of form recently as well.
Mourinho has already stated his likening for Oscar and how he plans to build his team around him. The Brazilian has also justified the faith he has received from his manager and has arguably been Chelsea’s best player this season. He will once again pull the strings behind the striker with Hazard starting on the left. This will mean that Mata will drop down the bench once again with either of Andre Schurrle or Kevin De Bruyne is likely to get the nod ahead of Willian, who made his debut midweek, or Mata.
But perhaps Chelsea’ most well documented problems lies upfront with Samuel Eto’o failing to impress in his two outings. Fernando Torres is likely to regain his place in the starting line-up and the Spaniard needs to grab this opportunity with both hands.
Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1) – Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard ; de Bryune, Oscar, Hazard; Torres
Unlike Jose Mourinho, Martin Jol has big injury list to contain with ahead of this fixture and his squad certainly lacks the depth of Chelsea. Fulham will continue to be without Maarten Stekelenburg, Matthew Briggs, Bryan Ruiz and Aaron Hughes ahead of this game.
Dimitar Berbatov, who was substituted in the second half of the match against West Brom, will undergo a late fitness test ahead of this fixture to confirm his availability. But in all likelihood Martin Jol is unlikely to risk his star striker for this trip to Stamford Bridge.
The absence of Berbatov and Ruiz have left Jol with very few options in attack. Darren Bent is likely to get his second start in the Premier League upfront with Kasami supporting him. Fulham’s main concern is the lack of creativity in ageing midfield. While the duo of Sidwell and new signing Scott Parker adds a lot of steel and solidarity, it is unlikely to create too many openings. Kasami is been decent so far, without being spectacular and this means they will have to mostly depend of their wingers to create the chances.
Normally Berbatov had to drop deep to collect the ball as the link between the midfield and attack is missing in the starting line-up, but the former Manchester United striker’s absence will hurt they badly in attack as Darren Bent is a striker who is more adapt to getting at the end of a pass rather than creating a pass for his team mates. Martin Jol will perhaps have to call up Adel Taarabt to provide the spark in attack.
Starting Line-Up (4-4-2) – Stockdale (GK); Riether, Hangeland, Senderos, Richardson; Duff, Sidwell, Parker, Kacaniklic; Kasami; Bent;
- If goals from strikers were excluded this season then Chelsea would be top of the table.
- Fernando Torres is yet to record a shot on target in the Premier League this season (126 minutes of action).
- Fulham won only one of their five London derbies away from home in the 2012-13 Premier League (L2 D2).
- Jol lost both of his Premier League games at Stamford Bridge as Tottenham manager but has drawn both as Fulham supremo.
- Jose Mourinho has never lost a Premier League home game (W48 D14).
Players to Watch Out For
The only player who provided glimpses of class during the insipid performance against basel in midweek would be our man to watch out from the blue army. Oscar not only scored the goal, but also peppered the Basel goal with array of long rangers. Without a shadow of a doubt, the Brazilian’s confidence is high and it would be really costly for the Whites if they fail to pay attention to his nippy movements.
Steve Sidwell (Fulham)
Former Chelsea player could turn out to be pivotal in this tie as the English player has been orchestrating a lot of moves for his side. The number four hit the back of the net in the last match and could silence the crowd as he returns to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea 2-0 Fulham
While Chelsea are coming into this game on the back of some poor results, they will be too strong at home for Fulham. One can expect Jose Mourinho’s side to take an early control of the game, and Fulham at the moment don’t have enough firepower upfront to hurt the Chelsea defense.