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Chelsea vs Fulham: Match preview

Stadium: Stamford Bridge

Referee:  Anthony Taylor

Kick-off: 1:15 AM (IST), Thursday, 29th of November

Having clearly heard exactly what the fans think of him, Rafael Benitez returns to the scene of his team’s goalless draw with Manchester City for the second time in four days. With the Clattenburg ordeal now officially expressed ‘regret’ over by the club, Benitez will be hoping that his team can now focus on addressing their on-field problems. Sitting in fourth place, one point below the Baggies from West Brom, Chelsea have had the worst possible month of league football, failing to win even a single game.

Fulham, hailing from London as well, make the short trip to Stamford Bridge looking to end their own miserable run of 5 league games without a win. Both teams have 3 points from a possible 15 in their last five league games, and a draw wouldn’t do either side much good. Martin Jol’s men have 25 goals from their 13 games, and certainly won’t be looking to sit back and be a punchbag for the reigning European champions.

Form

Chelsea: W D L L D

No matter what they do, in spite of the immense wealth at their disposal, Chelsea just can’t seem to buy a win at the moment. In fact, their last win in all competitions came three weeks ago against Shakhtar. In the league, Chelsea continue to have the joint-second worst record for the past five weeks, and have seen the Manchester clubs overtake them fairly effortlessly. In those five games, Chelsea have scored 5 and conceded 6, clearly indicating how the games have been close, although some have been immensely dull. Now up against one among a host of London clubs competing in the top tier of English football this time around, Chelsea will hope to exploit the horrendous defensive record that the visitors bring.

Fulham: D D D L L

Last weekend’s 1 – 0 defeat to Stoke City saw Fulham fail to score for only the second time this season. With 9 goals in the 4 games prior to that, however, Fulham will know that their problems lie in defence, and that they need to shore it up heavily to escape from Stamford Bridge with even a solitary point. They have let in a total of 23 goals, which is only fewer than those conceded by Southampton and QPR. From being in contention for a European spot just five weeks ago, Fulham have fallen to 10th spot in the league, in spite of putting up decent fights. It is no surprise then, that they go into the home of the Blues as underdogs.

Injuries, Concerns & Suspensions

Chelsea: John Terry, Frank Lampard, Daniel Sturridge.

Fulham: Bryan Ruiz, Alexander Kacaniklic, Kieran Richardson, Simon Davies, Brede Hangeland.

Key Clashes

Dimitar Berbatov vs David Luiz

 Anyone who has been keeping tabs on Berbatov knows that the Bulgarian has been the reason Fulham are the joint-second highest scorers in the Premier League this season. Admittedly, there have been equally admirable contributions from the likes of Petric and Ruiz, but the Bulgarian’s style of play is something that Fulham just cannot do without. The ability to play with his back to goal, and hold up the ball for the runs of other attackers may especially come handy for Berba against Luiz. Tracking runs from opposing players is certainly not Luiz’s forte, and his tendency to venture forward quite often might create the spaces that Berbatov thrives at exploiting.

Eden Hazard vs Philippe Senderos

While it is true that Fernando Torres will be looking to do his former Liverpool, and current Chelsea manager a favour by leading his team to victory, it is in fact Hazard who has looked most likely to actually do so. Hazard’s returns thus far in his first season of English football have been beyond expectations, and the Belgian will be looking to add to his 3 goals and 5 assists in the league. The suspension of Hangeland may prove to be a blessing in disguise for Fulham, as Chelsea do not pose the greatest of aerial threats, with Senderos being slightly better at dealing with attackers who like the ball at their feet. Senderos has, however, started only one game so far this season, and might be too sluggish to deal with the hot feet of Hazard.

What to expect

Another sluggish encounter, unless Fulham are lax in defending. Chelsea have been horrible at everything lately, from Europe to scoring goals to keeping their own fans content. While it is certainly true that circumstances seem to have conspired against them, there is no denying the fact that their morale is at pretty deep lows at the moment. Up against a Fulham side who are equally low on morale, performance, results and much else, this may just turn out to be a winner takes all scrap fight, with both sides potentially ending up on top.

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