West London Derby Preview!
Fulham make the short trip to near neighbours Chelsea confident that they can get one over on their illustrious rivals. Fulham are in a good run of form whereas Chelsea are stuttering along having only won once in seven competitive games since trouncing Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. This could be the away victory, at Stamford Bridge we`ve craved!
It`s only a short trip down the road, to the seedier side of West London, but a positive result for Fulham would wrap up an extraordinary year, or as Roy Hodgson puts it,
"We`ve come a long way. It`s been a great year for us and if we get a result against Chelsea it will really top off what`s been a great 2009 for us."
"Expectations will rise but I`m not complaining because that means we are doing something right here."
Some wise words from a wise man, as usual.
Chelsea Team News:
Carlo Ancelotti has used the system to ensure that his African trio of Didier Drogba, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou are available for this match. With Brede Hangeland rated as doubtful, we could well have done without the leading scorer playing.
Elsewhere, Chelsea will be without the injured quartet of Michael Essien, Nicolas Anelka, Deco and Jose Bosingwa. They`ll also be weakened by the absence of the suspended Florent Malouda who got a red card after receiving two yellow cards at St Andrews on Boxing Day.
Player to watch: Didier Drogba
Not everyone`s cup of tea with his theatrical antics but one hell of a striker, on his day.
Fulham Team News:
Roy Hodgson takes his squad to Stamford Bridge with Brede Hangeland struggling to be fit after injuring his knee in the warm up before the 0-0 encounter with Spurs, on Boxing Day. If Hangeland isn`t available for selection Roy could select Chris Smalling to partner Aaron Hughes or he could decide to move Chris Baird back to central defence and inject Jonathan Greening or Dickson Etuhu into the gap left in midfield.
Roy could also decide to play Andrew Johnson after the striker was on the bench on Boxing Day.
With Chelsea having secured the services of their Africans for the fixture one would hope we`ll have Pantsil available!
We suspect that our starting eleven could well look like this:-
Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Smalling, Konchesky, Duff, Murphy, Baird, Gera, Zamora, Dempsey
Player to watch: Damien Duff
Returning to a ground where he won Premier League medals and the Irishman will be keen to give a decent display against his former employees
Match Facts & Stats
Visiting Stamford Bridge has not been a pleasurable experience for Fulham supporters in recent years. Our last top flight victory over in SW6 was in 1964. In the last twenty-five meetings we`ve registered one win and that back at our gaff in 2006.
The man charged with keeping things under control and flowing is Andre Marriner.
It`s one of those games that gets the heart pumping and with Chelsea struggling for form it is a game we can win, despite our relatively poor away form. Our hosts will be desperate to end their poor run but they could well be a little nervy. If we can keep our shape and remain calm there`s no reason why we can`t frustrate Chelsea and possibly sneak a narrow in, with Duff netting the winner. Wouldn`t that be a glorious day!
After the trip to Stamford Bridge we open our FA Cup campaign with the visit of Swindon Town before a resumption of Premier League action will see us face relegation threatened Portsmouth, at Craven Cottage.