Struggling Chelsea will visit cross town rivals Fulham in what could prove to be an intriguing West London derby at the Craven Cottage on Thursday night. Fulham have surprisingly done much better than their more famous neighbours this season and are three points as well as three places ahead of them in the league table. Chelsea, however, do have a game in hand over Fulham.
Very rarely have Fulham fans been able to cherish the fact of their side being higher than Chelsea on the league table at any point of the season in recent years. However, that illusion is a reality going into the latest edition of the West London derby between the two sides.
Not only has a glorious period of form propelled the Cottagers to a position higher than that of their much acclaimed rivals in the pyramid of the English top flight, but more importantly, they firmly remain involved in the mix for European football and only five points separate them and the Europa League group stage spot.
Marco Silva’s men have eight wins from their 18 matches so far this season. They have drawn four games and have lost on six occasions. As a result, they have been able to pick up 28 points for their efforts so far this season, which sees them being level with another English giant Liverpool, although the latter also have a game in hand.
Fulham have been quite brilliant since returning from the FIFA World Cup break and have embarked on a wonderful run of form. Crystal Palace, Southampton and Leicester City have all surrendered to the superiority and supremacy of the Cottagers who are currently on a three-match winning streak and will be desperate to protect them at all costs.
Fulham were also involved in cup action recently. Even with a heavily rotated lineup, they eased past Hull City 2-0 in the third round of the FA Cup at the weekend.
Layvin Kurzawa and Daniel James found the back of the net twice on either side of the half-time break. Thanks to that victory, they have moved further in the prestigious cup competition where they will now square off with Sunderland in the next round.
When they take to the field against Chelsea at home, Fulham will be chasing both glory and history. They will be looking to register four consecutive top flight wins in a row for the first time since the 1965-66 season. The Cottagers will also have to brace themselves for what is shaping up to be a tough January challenge as they will also face Chelsea, Newcastle United and Tottenham before also making the journey to Stamford Bridge for another meeting with the Blues in early February.
Fulham have only lost two matches so far at home in the Premier League this season. However, they haven’t exactly been consistent on home turf. In their last six matches in front of their own supporters, they have posted just two wins. However, Fulham are in a much better place than their out of sorts and struggling opponents.
The Chelsea project under new owner Todd Boehly is at the risk of imploding soon. Having replaced Champions League winning manager Thomas Tuchel with former Brighton manager Graham Potter, Chelsea have been hampered by a plethora of injuries and are missing several key players.
This has hurt their progress on the pitch and they’ve been sloppy and lacklustre in recent games. As a result, the Blues find themselves at a lowly 10th place in the league table. They have posted seven wins in 17 games and have lost six matches. Potter’s side have collected just 25 points at this point of the season and they are as close to the relegation zone as they are to the top four of the table.
Time is running out for them to get involved in the scrap for European places. While there is no immediate danger on the horizon for Potter whose project at the club is struggling take off, frustration and discontent reigns supreme at the Stamford Bridge. Disgruntled Blues supporters made their feelings crystal clear during their FA Cup elimination at the hands of Manchester City.
Three days before their FA Cup rematch with Manchester City, Chelsea had actually put up a stubborn fight in front of the defending Premier League champions in the top flight. It took a Riyad Mahrez goal in the second half to break the deadlock and Pep Guardiola’s side posted a hard-fought 1-0 victory at the Stamford Bridge.
However, all of that resistance vanished into thin air during the FA Cup bout with City. Even a heavily rotated Manchester City resting the likes of Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, and Erling Haaland made a mockery of the Chelsea defence. Riyad Mahrez was on hand to terrorise the Blues once again as he grabbed a brace while Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez also scored to complete a 4-0 rout on the night.
Those who braved the journey to the Etihad Stadium and stayed until the last bellowed out Thomas Tuchel and Roman Abramovich’s names as Potter’s slippery slope continues, and any positive energy emanating from early January transfer business is counting for little.
Todd Boehly and his board of directors have doubled down and started invested heavily again, looking at the transfer market as a possible solution. The loan transfer of Joao Felix from Atletico Madrid has been officially completed while Benoit Badiashile, David Fofana, and Andrey Santos have also been signed.
With an abysmal record of five losses on their account from their last seven competitive matches in all competitions, Chelsea will also be making the short journey to Craven Cottage with just a single victory from their last eight appearances in the Premier League. They haven’t picked up all three points away from home since defeating Aston Villa on October 16!
With that being said, Chelsea do possess a bright head to head record against their west London neighbours. They will be desperate to protect their seven-match winning run against Fulham at any costs. They are also unbeaten in their last 21 games against the Cottagers in all competitions.
FUL vs CFC, Premier League 2022/23
Date: 13th January, 2022
Time: 1:30 AM IST
Venue: Craven Cottage, London
Fulham Premier League form:
Fulham form (all competitions):
Chelsea Premier League form:
Chelsea form (all competitions):
Fulham wins: 11
Chelsea wins: 20
Fulham Team News:
Fulham fans were irked by the incident in the 78th minute of their previous game when star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic picked up his fifth yellow card of the season. That has seen him getting suspended from this clash with Chelsea and he won’t be able to play any part in the proceedings at Craven Cottage.
Besides his absence, Marco Silva doesn’t have major absences to contend with for the derby on Thursday night. Neeskens Kebano will remain out with an Achilles injury. However, there’s hope that Shane Duffy be able to return following an illness.
On the other hand, Manor Solomon made just his second appearance in Fulham colours since joining from Shakhtar Donetsk against Hull City and will be looking to play a more active role in this game.
Solomon’s prospects of starting are slim to none, though, as Silva reintroduces Willian into the final third alongside Mitrovic’s deputy, Carlos Vinicius.
Chelsea Team News:
In sharp contrast to Fulham’s squad status, Chelsea’s injury room is bustling right now as the number of players who are out injured for them has hit double figures. Ben Chilwell, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Edouard Mendy, N’Golo Kante, Reece James, Armando Broja and Wesley Fofana are all still struggling with their respective injury issues and are nowhere close to completing a comeback.
Forwards Christian Pulisic and Raheem Sterling have also been dealt major blows after picking up issues against Manchester City recently. Pulisic is set to miss a number of weeks while it’s unclear when Sterling will be back.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is expected to shake off a back problem and slot into the starting XI even as rumours of his return to Barcelona continue. It is also unclear whether new loan signing Joao Felix will be permitted to make his start for the club this soon.
With Potter’s options severely limited, the duo of new arrivals in David Datro Fofana and Benoit Badiashile can feel confident of earning their Premier League debuts, albeit most likely as substitutes.
Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marc Cucurella and Denis Zakaria are among those in line for returns to the first XI after being benched at the Etihad.
Fulham possible starting lineup:
Leno; Tete, Ream, Adarabioyo, Robinson; Reed, Palhinha; De Cordova-Reid, Pereira, Willian; Vinicius
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Koulibaly, Silva, Cucurella; Kovacic, Zakaria, Jorginho; Ziyech, Havertz, Mount
While Chelsea are quite short at the back and are suffering from a plethora of injury problems, Potter’s side were still capable of pulling off a scare or two for Manchester City in their last two games.
Historical records against Fulham will not count for match given the kind of form that the Cottagers have been in so far this season. The hosts will miss the big presence of Mitrovic upfront but still have enough resources to push Chelsea all the way.
A draw seems the most likely outcome from this game.