It has been a promising week for Chelsea, as they have recorded positive results in two huge matches. They will look to continue their good form with a victory over relegation-threatened Fulham. It is a West London derby and there will be motivation on both sides. The hosts will want to consolidate their position in the top four, while the visitors will know that they must win to keep their survival hopes alive. The recent head-to-head record doesn’t bode well for the Cottagers, as their last win against their neighbours came in 2006. Meanwhile, they haven’t tasted victory at Stamford Bridge since 1979.
Thomas Tuchel is moulding Chelsea into an excellent team as they challenge on multiple fronts. At the time of his appointment, he would have been looking to challenge for a top four finish. He could feasibly finish the season in the top four and list both the FA Cup and Champions League. There will be one eye on the second leg against Real Madrid, with the German likely to rotate his side. They were the better team in Spain, but they can’t afford to be complacent as the tie is currently level at 1-1. That said, the Blues have one of the strongest squads in the division and they can afford to rotate without losing too much quality.
Following their surprise win at Anfield, there was genuine belief that Fulham would be able to beat the odds and survive in the Premier League. However, a run of one point in five matches has left them seven points adrift of Brighton in 17th position. The recent good form of Newcastle United has seen them move nine points clear of the Cottagers and Scott Parker knows that there is now no margin for error. His team need to start winning matches and they will target three points on Saturday. They will take confidence from their win away to Liverpool and believe a similar result is possible against their London rivals.
Chelsea have had a player sent off against them in their previous two Premier League matches.
Fulham have dropped 13 points from winning positions when away from home. This is the most of any Premier League team.
It is likely that there will be rotation this weekend, as Thomas Tuchel tries to keep his most important players rested for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid. Hakim Ziyech is a player likely to come into the team as one of the attacking three and he will have a point to prove. It has been an underwhelming first season in England for the former Ajax player, as he has suffered from injuries during a period when he is adapting to a new division. There have been flashes of brilliance, but Chelsea fans will hope there is more to come from the creative midfielder. In his 995 minutes of Premier League football, he has contributed a goal and three assists. This weekend should be an opportunity for him to prove his quality against a team currently in the bottom three. Fulham like to set up deep and Chelsea will need to be able to break them down to create clear-cut opportunities. It is a match that is tailormade for Ziyech.
Despite Fulham’s struggles, it has been a breakout season for Joachim Andersen at the heart of their defence. Following a disappointing spell at Lyon, it was important that he took advantage of this loan spell in West London. He is a contender for the club’s player of the season award and he has shown that he is good enough to play regularly in the Premier League. If Fulham go down, he will not be short of options in the summer, with Tottenham touted as a potential destination. This weekend offers the Danish international an opportunity to show his quality against a team in the Champions League semi-finals. If he performs well and restricts Chelsea to few chances, he will show that he can play at an even higher level. His average of 5.1 clearances per game shows that he is often in the right place at the right time. It will be a testing afternoon for the centre-back, but there is a lot to gain if he performs well.
It is hoped that Mateo Kovacic will be back to feature following a thigh injury. There are no other injury concerns for the home side, but they may rotate their ranks. Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech, Tammy Abraham and Marcos Alonso are all in contention to start.
Kenny Tete will be back from his Covid-19 absence. However, Terence Kongolo and Tom Cairney remain on the treatment table.
Chelsea should have the quality within their squad to pick up three points, even if they do rotate. Fulham have been on a downwards curve since their win at Anfield and they may have had the stuffing knocked out of them by recent results. They have been left in a perilous position in the league table. Although they managed to drag themselves back into contention before, it is unlikely that they will have the confidence and belief that they can again. A narrow home win looks to be the likely result.
Chelsea 1-0 Fulham