Jack Stroudley assesses our second West London derby of the season.
It’s the big one on Monday night as Fulham welcome Chelsea to Craven Cottage under the lights. While some fans have been uninspired by Fulham this season, I think we’ve made a good start. Eight points from the opening six games, which included trips to Arsenal & Manchester City as well as three clean sheets, is nothing to be sniffed at. We’ve started well and built a solid gap away from those relegation places.
We welcome a Chelsea side on Monday who’re really struggling at the moment and with a large injury list and a few suspensions, they will come to Craven Cottage with a weakened side. Last season was our first win over the Blues since 2006, but can Fulham emulate that kind of performance again to earn bragging rights for another few months?
Chelsea would’ve come into this season with confidence after making many summer signings and bringing in experienced manager Mauricio Pochettino but it’s not worked out for them with just one Premier League win this season, they currently sit in 14th place. While funny, I don’t think their league position truly reflects the performances put in. Chelsea have controlled possession for the majority of games played this season and have created a fair few chances but have been unlucky in the final third.
They’re also in a bit of an injury crisis at the moment with nine first team players out injured, Carney Chukwumenka is the most likely to return on Monday night having returned to training this week. Ben Chilwell is a new injury concern and Chelsea will also be without Nicolas Jackson and Malo Gusto who are both suspended for this game.
How do we prepare?
This is a good opportunity for Fulham to continue to extend their gap on the bottom three, here’s how I’d line-up.
I’d make three changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace last weekend with Kenny Tete, Harry Wilson and Carlos Vinicius coming in for Timothy Castagne, Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Raul Jimenez.
The first change is dependant upon fitness. I think that if Tete is fully fit he has to start; he was excellent against Chelsea last season and for me is the best full-back at the club. Castagne has been good in the last few games but if available, the Dutchman has to start.
Fulham have struggled in-front of goal as of late with just one goal in the last two league games, Wilson and Vinicius would come in for me with the hopes of changing our fortunes. The Welsh winger’s technical ability is something that Fulham could exploit and given that Vinicius has scored two goals in his last three appearances, he has to start over Jimemez.
Alex Iwobi is somebody who is knocking on the door for a Premier League start but for now I’d stick with Andreas Pereira given the Brazilian’s ability from dead-ball situations. Finally, Sasa Lukic will be involved in the squad on Monday, but I think that Harrison Reed deserves to keep his place as his pressing and intensity should get at a dysfunctional Chelsea midfield.
The final verdict
I don’t expect the same game from Chelsea that we saw last January at the Cottage. While their league position doesn’t suggest it, they’re not as bad as everyone has made out and will cause us issues. Our lack of firepower is a cause for concern but Marco Silva will know the importance of the game to Fulham fans and will hopefully force players to rise to the occasion. I’m going with a draw.