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Match Preview - Chelsea vs Fulham

It’s been over a month that the European Champions have had a slump in their form. A slump which started on 23rd October with an away defeat at the hands of Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. A slump which has seen Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich wield the axe over the Champions League winning manager and a club legend Roberto di Matteo. Chelsea has just managed to win 2 out of their last 9 matches in all competitions, the latest being a draw at Stamford Bridge against English Champions Manchester City. This was also the first match in charge for the club’s new interim manager Rafa Benitez who has not had a warm reception from the Chelsea faithful.

Fulham who find themselves on the top half of the table in the 10th position are level on points with Liverpool. Goals have come easy for Martin Jol’s side as they are the 2nd best in goals scored this season with 25 goals same as Manchester City and only United’s 32 goals ahead of them.

Having said that, looking at the league form, Chelsea’s last win in the EPL was on 20th October 2012 against Tottenham. Since then Chelsea has lost against title rivals Manchester United and West Brom and have drawn against Swansea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

This midweek derby against Fulham is definitely going to be a game of intense pressure on the players and the new boss Benitez, who is very well aware of the club’s and owner’s ambitions. Fulham manager Martin Jol has already mounted pressure on his counterpart Benitez by saying that this is a must win game for Chelsea.

Coincidentally, Fulham has had a very similar league run to their neighbours Chelsea. Having lost the last 2 games against Stoke and Sunderland and drawn against Arsenal, Everton and Reading, even Fulham’s last win was on 20th October 2012 when they beat Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

Fulham’s scoring has been courtesy some team work with Dimitar Berbatov (five goals), Mladen Petric (four), Steve Sidwell (three), Damien Duff (three) and Bryan Ruiz (five assists) all helping to try to forget the summer loss of Dempsey and Dembele.

On the other end, Chelsea’s striker problems continue, with their 50 million signing Fernando Torres having not found the back of the net in the last 544 minutes played in EPL. Daniel Sturridge, who has had an injury prone season is still unfit for this match. The board must be regretting their decision to let go Belgian Romelu Lukaku on loan to West Brom, who has scored the same number of goals (4) as Torres in the league having played 418 minutes (3 starts) compared to Torres’s 1102 minutes (13 starts).

So as the two closest London rivals go head to head, here is a look at the head to head record between the two teams:

The last 4 encounters between these sides have ended in a draw.

Fulham have never won at Chelsea in the Premier League, in 11 visits. They last experienced victory in the league at Stamford Bridge in October 1979.

With only three points out of a possible 15 in its last five league games, Chelsea now find themselves 4th in the table, 5 points behind leaders United and a point behind WBA. A win tonight will do wonders for the team’s confidence and also make things easy for new boss Benitez.

Predicted Line Ups:

Chelsea – Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Mata, Oscar, Hazard, Torres.
Fulham - Schwarzer, Riether, Senderos, Hughes, Riise, Duff, Baird, Sidwell, Dejagah, Petric, Berbatov.
Prediction – Chelsea 2-0 Fulham.

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