It’s suddenly become an even more important game for Fulham. This lunchtime, West Bromwich Albion closed the gap from behind with a 3-2 win at Wolves. And now, Brighton have won 1-0 at Leeds thanks to Neal Maupay’s fine first-half goal. That’s a first win in ten for the Seagulls, who leapfrog Burnley – 1-0 losers at West Ham – into 16th spot. It all means Fulham are now now four points from safety: they’ve got 12 compared to Burnley’s 16. It’s getting interesting at the bottom.
Just the one change for Fulham from the draw at Spurs, and it’s a swap that’s out of Scott Parker’s hands. The on-loan Ruben Loftus-Cheek is ineligible against his parent club, so he’s replaced by Ademola Lookman. Aleksandar Mitrovic hasn’t recovered from injury, and isn’t even on the bench.
Chelsea make seven changes from the team that saw off Morecambe in the FA Cup, but never mind that. More significantly, it’s just three changes to the team named for their last Premier League match against Manchester City. Olivier Giroud, Antonio Rudiger and Jorginho take the places of Kurt Zouma, N’Golo Kante and Timo Werner.
Fulham: Areola, Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Tete, Reid, Reed, Zambo, Robinson, Ivan Cavaleiro, Lookman.
Subs: Hector, Odoi, Kebano, Rodak, Ream, Bryan, Onomah, Kamara.
Chelsea: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Thiago Silva, Chilwell, Kovacic, Jorginho, Mount, Ziyech, Giroud, Pulisic.
Subs: Arrizabalaga, Abraham, Werner, Zouma, Hudson-Odoi, Gilmour, James, Havertz, Emerson Palmieri.
Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside).
It’s the west London derby … or one of them, at least. As with any other local rivalry, football’s most unappealing prize – bragging rights – are up for grabs. Three precious points are on offer too, manna from heaven for a couple of teams not quite firing on all cylinders right now.
Fulham are slowly attempting to extricate themselves from the mire. They’ve drawn their last five matches, a run that’s better than it sounds, given it features hard-won points against Liverpool, Tottenham and high-flying Southampton. But wins are at a premium right now – they’ve only managed two all season – and how they could do with three points that would ease their relegation worries.
Chelsea are finding wins hard to come by themselves. Just one in the last six, a run which has seen them limited to four points from 18 on offer. But some things run deeper than recent form, and their record against their neighbours down by the river is extremely encouraging for Frank Lampard’s side. Chelsea have won 12 and drawn seven of the past 19 meetings with Fulham; the Cottagers’ last win came in 2006, with Luis Boa Morte scoring the solitary goal.
History and league position make Chelsea favourites for this. Fulham will take succour from their dogged displays of late, and the belief that all barren runs have to end sometime. It’s a big London weekend derby. It’s Saturday evening prime-time. It’s on!
Kick off: 5.30pm GMT.
at 11.28am EST