It’s a West London derby in the Premier League on Saturday evening as revitalised Fulham entertain out-of-sorts Chelsea.
Cottagers boss Scott Parker sees his side contest a second London derby in a week after securing a valuable point away at Tottenham on Wednesday in a rearranged fixture he labelled as ‘scandalous’.
The outcome after 90 minutes was far from scandalous from a Fulham perspective however, with Parker’s side good value for the point against Spurs in what was their first Premier League game since Boxing Day.
The result at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was Fulham’s 5th consecutive draw in the top flight -and although it wasn’t enough to lift them out of the relegation zone, Brighton’s loss at Manchester City means the Cottagers are just three points from safety with two games in hand over the 17th placed Seagulls.
It would have seemed unusual just over a month ago to describe Fulham as the form team heading in to this encounter, but whilst Scott Parker’s side have seen improvement in recent weeks, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea team have gone completely off the boil.
Although off the back of a win last time out – a 4-0 FA Cup triumph against League Two Morecambe – the Blues’ top flight form has been rotten of late for a side touted by many to be in with a shout of Premier League glory.
Of their last 6 league affairs, the 3-0 home victory over West Ham before Christmas has been their only win, with defeats to Everton, Wolves, Arsenal and Manchester City in that time frame causing Chelsea to lose grip of their top 4 spot and plummet to 9th in the standings – 10 points from the top.
A win for Chelsea over Fulham won’t take them any higher than 7th come the final whistle – no doubt a concern considering the whopping £200m spent on players in the summer.
Despite his legendary status at Stamford Bridge, some will suggest Frank Lampard simply cannot afford to lose at Craven Cottage with the pressure regarding his managerial ability intensifying.
However, Chelsea rarely come unstuck at the Cottage, boasting an unbeaten record there since 2006 in the Premier League – a win for the Blues on Saturday would mark six wins in a row against Fulham.
Chelsea success at the weekend though will need to be achieved without the suspended N’Golo Kante, with the Frenchman – who also has a knock – unavailable due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
Defenders Andreas Christensen and Reece James have also been on the sidelines of late but both are expected to be available for selection again after recovering from knee and hamstring issues respectively.
Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is on loan at Fulham for the season and therefore won’t be eligible to play for the Cottagers against his parent club.
Scott Parker also has a decision to make on the fitness of Aleksandar Mitrovic who has been suffering with a knock – teammates Tom Cairney and Mario Lemina have also had problems lately and it remains to be seen whether they feature.
Fulham v Chelsea at Craven Cottage is a 5.30pm kick off on Saturday 16th January.