Chelsea vs Fulham (2-0): Match Review
Chelsea looked to bounce back in the Premier League after Tottenham Hotspur inflicted a painful 3-1 defeat on their fellow Londoners. Fulham, another London based club, was hoping to further derail their opponent's season as they enjoy their first season back in the top flight after an absence of four years.
Following the defeat, the Blues registered a morale-boosting 4-0 win against PAOK FC in the Europa League with a changed lineup featuring none of the outfield players that started against Tottenham.
However, Maurizio Sarri was expected to field his preferred lineup, hoping to replicate the early season form which saw them go unbeaten for the first 12 games in the Premier League. Chelsea's talisman Eden Hazard was expected to feature again after missing out Chelsea's Europa League fixture after suffering an ankle injury against Spurs.
Heading into the match, Fulham were sitting at the bottom of the table after a difficult return back to the Premier League. Slavisa Jokanovic, who led the Cottagers back into the Premier League was sacked after securing a mere 5 points out of the opening 12 games. The outgoing Serbian was succeeded by none other than Premier League winner Claudio Ranieri.
The Italian's arrival has partially lifted the mood at Craven Cottage after Fulham defeated Southampton, which was Ranieri's first game in charge. His next challenge towards reviving his club's current fortunes was Chelsea, a team who he managed for four years and who are currently one of the best sides in England.
On paper, a Chelsea victory would have been the predicted outcome but Fulham posed a serious threat because of two reasons. Fulham would no doubt hope to finally build some momentum in order claw their way out of relegation zone.
The squad, which features some top quality talent in the form of Aleksandar Mitrović and Jean Michaël Seri, would be hungry for more. Secondly, Chelsea's defeat against Tottenham exposed a lot of defensive vulnerabilities which Ranieri most certainly would have studied.
The West London Derby, the first since 2014, could potentially derail the season for one team and on the other hand, could also spark a change in fortunes for the other.
The hosts made two changes to the lineup that faced Tottenham as Pedro replaced Willian and Frenchman Olivier Giroud started over the Spanish striker Alvaro Morata. Fulham also made one change to the lineup from last week's win over Southampton as Andre Schurrle made way for Stefan Johansen due to injury.
Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azplicueta (c), Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, Marcos Alonso, N'Golo Kanté, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Pedro, Olivier Giroud, Eden Hazard
Subs: Willy Caballero, Cesc Fàbregas, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Davide Zappacosta, Willian, Andreas Christensen, Alvaro Morata
Sergio Rico, Cyrus Christie, Denis Odoi, Alfie Mawson, Maxim Le Marchand, Calum Chambers, Jean Michaël Seri, Tom Cairney (c), Stefan Johansen, Aleksandar Mitrović, Ryan Sessegnon
Subs: Bettinelli, Tim Ream, Joe Bryan, Ibrahima Cissé, Neeskens Kebano, Floyd Ayité, Aboubakar Kamara