It will be a hard task for relegation-threatened Fulham this weekend as Felix Magath’s men welcome Chelsea to Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon.
Fulham only managed to get a draw against West Brom last weekend and even with three points this weekend, they would still find themselves in the bottom three in the Premier League. Unfortunately, they are facing the team that currently leads the title race.
Chelsea continue to lead the way at the top after their narrow win over Everton last weekend. Jose Mourinho will know, however, that the smallest slip could see them drop back into second place if Arsenal win their game. One very slight disadvantage for Chelsea is their round trip to Turkey during the week that saw them draw 1-1 with Galatasaray, and so there could be fatigue in the team that Fulham could capitalise on.
Aside from this, this fixture is a derby and this alone could inspire Fulham to the victory they so desperately need.
Fulham currently have one of the most at-strength teams in the Premier League with only one injury to Matthew Briggs. Magath will likely field the same side he sent out against West Brom last weekend.
Jose Mourinho has a couple of players unavailable for selection this week. David Luiz is still injured but could return to action next week, while Marco van Ginkel is still out for the foreseeable future. Samuel Eto’o will likely start up front again in place of Fernando Torres who led the line against Galatasaray.
Darren Bent has scored in four of his last six league games against Chelsea.
However, Fulham have failed to score in six of their last nine league games against the Blues.
Fulham have allowed 173 shots on target against them, more than any other team in the league this season.
Chelsea have kept eight clean sheets in their last 11 league games.
Of the 25 Premier League games between the two sides, Chelsea have won 14 and lost just once.
Branislav Ivanovic has scored Chelsea’s last two league goals away from home.
Fulham – Steve Sidwell
The former Chelsea midfielder has been in good form for Fulham in recent weeks, most notably opening the scoring for his team at Old Trafford in their 2-2 draw with Manchester United. Sidwell has a good presence in midfield with 83% of his passes in open play finding a team mate. When we look at the zones he is passing in more closely however, his statistics look more conservative. He has completed 485 of the 525 passes he has attempted in the defensive zone of the pitch, giving him an accuracy of 92%. He has attempted more passes in the attacking zone with 544 but has only managed to complete 394, meaning he only has a passing accuracy of 72% in this area. Given this apparent conservative nature (more likely a reflection of Fulham’s inability to move forward effectively), he has only completed 162 of 245 passes in the final third, giving him an accuracy of 66%. Despite this, he has scored six goals this season and so has contributed to some of Fulham’s better results in this way. However, it goes without saying that Sidwell will have a much harder challenge when he comes up against Chelsea’s defence this weekend.
Chelsea – Eden Hazard
Hazard has so far proven to be one of the best players in the Premier League this year. He has created 70 chances for his team mates, making five assists in the process. This means he is creating a chance every 33 minutes on average so far in the league. He has also managed to create a further seven clear-cut chances, as well as being successful with 100 of his 163 attempted dribbles. However, his crossing leaves something to be desired with only 10 of the 56 he attempted reaching another Chelsea player. The Belgian has even managed to contribute to Chelsea’s goal tally, scoring 12 goals from 41 shots on goal. As 27 of these shots were on target, it means that Hazard has a shooting accuracy of 66%. He only has a chance conversion of 29%, however, by scoring seven of the clear-cut chances that have come his way, he has an accuracy in this area of 71%. Hazard has the potential to run ragged at Craven Cottage given how difficult Fulham have found it to defend, so they will have to be on the top of their game against the winger.
Fulham will be playing for pride in this derby but I can’t look beyond Chelsea. They have a great record against Fulham and have played well away recently. I think it will finish 2-0 to Chelsea.