Chelsea make the short trip to face Fulham in a local derby. Few Chelsea supporters would have expected to be behind their neighbours at this point in the season. It underlines their struggles. If they do win on Thursday, they will move ahead of the Cottagers and move within seven points of the top four. It is a game they need to win, as it would pile the pressure on Graham Potter if they don’t.
Fulham have had an excellent season under Marco Silva. After a struggle to stay in the Premier League, they look like they will coast to safety this campaign. The Portuguese coach deserves a lot of praise. Like Fulham, he has struggled to establish himself in the Premier League. As a duo, they well suited to succeed. For this match, the Cottagers will be without leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic, who serves a one-match suspension after collecting five yellow cards.
This was supposed to be a new dawn for Chelsea. They have new owners, who have made their first managerial appointment since the takeover. A plethora of new signings have arrived at Stamford Bridge. However, the performances on the pitch haven’t been good enough, with the fans chanting for Roman Abramovich and Thomas Tuchel. The Blues need to improve quickly, as it could become poisonous if their current struggles continue for much longer. This will be a tough game for them, but it is one they simply must win.
Only Brentford (28) have conceded more than Fulham in the top half. The Cottagers have conceded 27 times.
Chelsea have only scored 20 Premier League goals. This is the fewest of any side in the top half.
There could be a former player coming back to haunt Chelsea during the week. Willian left a few years ago to join Arsenal. It didn’t work out for the Brazilian in North London, but he has been performing very well at Craven Cottage since joining the newly promoted club. This is an opportunity for him to remind the world that he can still influence big matches. Without Mitrovic, Fulham will be worrying about their attacking threat. In Willian, they have a player that can create moments of magic. He will be important at set pieces, as his delivery can cause problems for his former club. This season, he has contributed a goal and two assists. Fulham will be hoping he can add to those tallies on Thursday.
It has been a frustrating season for Mount, with a similar trend to Chelsea’s own form. The midfielder remains an important player for the long term future at Chelsea. Last season, he showed his quality as he contributed 11 goals and 10 assists. It is impressive to get double figures for both and it underlines the dual threat that the England international can carry in the final third. This season, he only has three goals and two assists, but there is plenty of time to improve on those numbers. If he wants to consolidate his starting role under Potter, he will need to be much more effective during the second half of the season. Fulham can be leaky at the back. There will be a chance for Mount to play a big role on Thursday night.
Mitrovic is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card against Leicester City. Shane Duffy should be back from illness, but is unlikely to start in any case.
Chelsea have a longer injury list. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Christian Pulisic, Raheem Sterling and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all unlikely to feature. Reece James and N’Golo Kante are out longer term. Wesley Fofana, Armando Broja and Ben Chilwell all won’t be available.
It is a difficult match to call. Chelsea will be missing several first team players and are in bad form. On the other hand, Fulham are in great form at the moment. The issue for them is that they won’t have Mitrovic available. If they had their talisman, a home win would look the most likely result. Without his firepower, the away side may be able to sneak a narrow win.
Fulham 0-1 Chelsea