On Saturday down by the banks of the River Thames Fulham host Chelsea (Watch live on NBCSN, 10 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) in a massive game for both West London clubs.
Chelsea sit on top of the Premier League and know a win will keep them at the summit with just 10 games to go. Fulham need all three points to spark their survival bid, as new manager Felix Magath will take charge of his first home game with his side rooted to the bottom off the standings.
On paper Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea should waltz past Fulham, but as the Cottagers showed earlier this season in a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge, they are no pushovers. But Chelsea’s record against Fulham is sublime and they haven’t lost to the Cottagers in 16 games, and only once in their last 35. But, and it’s a big but, Chelsea have just traveled to Turkey on Wednesday to face Galatasaray and will be exhausted from all of that traveling. Could this be the perfect time play the Blues? Magath is hoping his team can build on their encouraging 1-1 draw away at West Brom on his managerial debut last week, as the German coach will set his side out to defend and thwart Chelsea’s attack.
In team news Fulham’s record signing Kostas Mitroglou will not play against Chelsea as Magath believes his fitness levels aren’t where they need to be, while Darren Bent is available after missing the West Brom game last week. Chelsea are set to start with Fernando Torres up top again after he scored in the midweek Champions League draw against Galatasaray. At he back John Terry and Gary Cahill are expected to shake off knocks but David Luiz is still out.
What they’re saying
Felix Magath on his first game for Fulham: “At home games the crowd will be the 12th man for a team and that’s what we have to get. We need every supporter that we can get and I think our performance will convince our fans here at Craven Cottage. We have to fight, we have to put pressure on Chelsea, and if we’re able to make pressure then we have a chance for the game.”
Jose Mourinho on Chelsea’s travel problems: “It is basic and in a world where not many people are honest in the way they analyze things, I have to praise [Fulham manager] Felix Magath because he is the first to say it’s a different match because Chelsea had this special situation with a midweek game so far away. We don’t play Sunday which would be difficult anyway, we play Saturday which is even more difficult, and he knows that because he has experience at this level for many years. I have to praise him because he is honest in his approach.”
Anything other than an away win would seem bonkers… but I am going for a draw here. Fulham need the points badly and will be tough to beat in a West London derby. Chelsea, on their day, should wipe the floor with their neighbors but after a long midweek trip and the rigors of chasing titles across the board, you have to expect the odd slip up away from home. Score draw.