Wednesday night see’s Fulham take on Chelsea at Craven Cottage in a West London Derby with local bragging rights at stake.
This game has serious importance for Chelsea who need all three points if they are to continue their fight for a top four finish in the league.
Fulham on the other hand are sitting comfortably in the middle of the table on 40 points but will be looking to get one over their local rivals and further add to Chelsea’s disappointment following the Blues 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.
The fight for a top four finish could not be tighter, with just four points separating 3rd and 6th place and it really is too hard to pick who will be playing in the Champions League next season.
Chelsea’s interim-manager Rafa Benitez knows of the importance of Wednesday’s game: “We have a massive game coming now this week,” Benitez said.
“We have two games in the Premier League – the target for us – and then after we will start thinking about the Europa League.
‘The main one is Fulham on Wednesday. We know it will be tough, difficult, but still we have confidence we can win.”
The two teams last meeting was in a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge back in November last year. Despite having 59.7% of possession, 84% passing accuracy and creating 10 chances in open play to score, Chelsea were unable to break down the Fulham defence and the Cottagers came away from Stamford Bridge with a well earned and vital point.
Fulham – Dejagah (ankle), Diarra (knee), Petric (thigh) and Steve Sidwell is suspended.
Chelsea – Cole (hamstring), Romeu (knee), Cahill (knee).
- Fulham have won just one of their last 23 Premier League meetings against Chelsea.
- The last four London derbies between the two sides have ended in draws.
- Martin Jol has never been successful against Rafa Benitez in seven head to head league games.
Ones to watch
Chelsea’s man to watch on Wednesday night will be Juan Mata. The Spaniard has scored 10 goals this season and contributed 10
assists for The Blues. Mata has created 74 chances for his team and has won possession 72 times in the midfield third, as the source of some of Chelsea’s greatest attacking plays this season. Having made 28 appearances in the league, 24 of which have been starts, Mata has made 1495 passes, with an 85% passing accuracy success rate. Despite starting in Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final, Mata will be expected to start and be one of the few who starts two games running in Rafa Benitez’s strict rotation policy at Chelsea.
Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov is one to watch at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night. Berbatov is Fulham’s highest goal scorer this season, having scored 13 goals and provided three assists. Ten of Berbatov’s 13 Premier League goals have come in the first half and he has scored four goals in his last three appearances for Fulham at Craven Cottage. The striker has had 70 shots for Fulham in the league, 30 of which have been on target and he has converted 53% of his clear-cut chances. The Bulgarian has placed seven of his goals to the right side of the keeper and favours his right foot.
Recent Premier League Form
Fulham are tenth in the Barclays Premier League and seventh in the Premier League form table. The Cottagers have picked up 11 points from a possible 18, keeping two clean sheets. Fulham have scored eight goals and conceded six in their last six games, only two of which have been at Craven Cottage.
Chelsea sit fourth in the Barclays Premier League and fourth in the Premier League form table. The Blues have picked up 12 points from a possible 18 but have lost their last three Premier League away games in a row, as well as losing away to Rubin Kazan in the Europa League and at Wembley to Manchester City. Chelsea have scored ten goals and conceded six in their last six games, as well as keeping two clean sheets against West Brom and West Ham at Stamford Bridge.
With games coming thick and fast at this stage of the season and Rafa Benitez’s insistence upon his squad rotation policy this game will be a tough challenge for Chelsea. If the past four games that these two have faced each other are anything to go by we could be looking at a draw but I have a feeling both teams will be looking for a win, especially Chelsea who need these three points so badly.
Chelsea might be able to edge out a win here but Fulham will be tough competition, it’s not just points at stake though, it’s local bragging rights as well.
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