The West London derby will be played this weekend, with Chelsea needing to return to winning ways in the Premier League. A defeat to Fulham would put Frank Lampard under even more pressure, as there has been speculation on his job in recent weeks. It won’t be an easy fixture for the Blues, as Scott Parker’s team are improving. In recent weeks, they have managed to avoid defeat against Liverpool and Tottenham. That will give them confidence that they can pick up a positive result against another one of the top six teams this weekend. The battle of two former Chelsea teammates in the dugout adds extra intrigue to the contest.
Fulham will be growing in confidence that they can retain their Premier League status. Brighton and Newcastle United have been struggling in recent weeks, while the Cottagers continue to pick up points. Parker will be disappointed that they haven’t been able to pick up many wins, but the performances have been pleasing and it is clear that the team are starting to gel together. They seem to relish matches against the top six and they will be coming up against a Chelsea team in poor form. This is a great opportunity for them to pick up three points and strengthen their survival hopes.
Lampard will know that there is little margin for error over the next few weeks, as there will be great scrutiny on the team’s performances. This is due to the speculation over his job at Stamford Bridge. On paper, this looks to be a good fixture for the Blues to get back to winning ways against a team in the relegation zone. However, Fulham have drawn their last five in the competition and have been unfortunate not to pick up more points during this period. At the time of writing, Chelsea are in 9th position and looking in danger of missing our on the top four, with six points separating them from Leicester in 4th. The face the Foxes during the week, but they need to win on Saturday first to ensure they remain in touching distance.
Fulham are on a run of five successive draws in the Premier League, which is their longest run of draws in the competition since January 2007.
Timo Werner ended his goalless run of 12 matches in all competitions in the FA Cup. Chelsea will be hoping that will spark an improvement in his Premier League form.
After he struggled to make an impact in the Premier League with Wolves, it is good to see Ivan Cavaleiro start to contribute in the top-flight with Fulham. The Portuguese forward has been one of the most impressive players in white during recent weeks, with two goals to his name. Against Tottenham, he scored the equaliser with an excellent header and his overall involvement caused problems for Spurs throughout the evening. In addition to his goal, he attempted two shots, made one key pass and completed one dribble. He looks to be more effective in a central role in the absence of a natural centre forward. Cavaleiro has the physical attributes to be a real threat in the Premier League and he is starting to build the confidence to express himself at this level. Chelsea can leave themselves exposed at the back, especially down the flanks as their full-backs push on to support the attack. This could leave space for Cavaleiro to move into and cause damage. Following his contribution against Spurs, he will be the danger man on Saturday.
Many believe that Hakim Ziyech is the most important player for Chelsea and their hopes of finishing in the top four may centre on his availability. Their best form so far this season did arrive when Ziyech was in the team and playing well. Lampard will be relieved that he can now call on the Moroccan international once again, as he adds a creative edge that no other player in the squad can match. In the Premier League, he has contributed a goal and three assists in just 454 minutes, This underlines the problems he can cause for an opposition defence and shows why Chelsea moved quickly to sign him at the beginning of 2020. There is more to come from the former Ajax player, but firstly, he needs to focus on maintaining his fitness, so he can have a run in the team. He was effective against Morecambe in a match that Lampard used to allow his most important players to build confidence. Ziyech got an assist and started to find form, albeit the opposition was weak. Despite this, it was a positive experience for him and he will be relishing the chance to help the Blues get back to winning ways in the league.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek won’t be available to face his parent club. Aleksandar Mitrovic is a doubt for the home side, while Mario Lemina and Tom Cairney are both pushing to be passed fit for Fulham.
Reece James is back available for Chelsea, following a spell on the sidelines. It is yet to be seen whether Lampard decides to put him straight back in the starting eleven. Andreas Christensen should be available, but N’Golo Kante is unavailable through suspension.
This feels like a must win match for Lampard. Based on recent performances, it will be a tough ask for the current Chelsea team to beat Fulham, regardless of their respective positions in the league table. That said, Chelsea did build some confidence at the weekend and their players will know that they need to up their game if they are to have a successful season. Despite their positive result against Tottenham, Fulham did concede several big chances and on another day, they would have conceded three or four. Chelsea should have the attacking quality to pick up three points on Saturday.
Fulham 1-3 Chelsea