The 'Chav`s` from down the other end of the Fulham Road pitch up on our patch this New Years Day for a fixture everyone in our neck of the woods relishes. With it being Roy Hodgson`s first game in charge it has that little extra edge to it. Can Fulham end a long run without a win? Off course we can!
With Hodgson taking over the managerial hot seat Anti Niemi has come out and spoken about the man who managed him at international level, remarking,
"When I was with the Finland team, it was always the defence first and, for me, that is absolutely brilliant."
"He is very good at organising teams. Obviously when you are in the relegation zone, as a goalkeeper you think you are probably leaking too many goals. That is what he is really good at - organising the defence. That is what I`m really looking forward to."
"There is nothing wrong with us playing football - we can pass the ball pretty well at times - we just need that bit of steel back in the team, a bit of backbone. It looks a bit shaky at times so that is probably the first thing he will try and fix."
Fulham Team News:
It`ll be interesting to see who makes the first starting eleven of the Hodgson era. We suspect that Roy may well have had a small say in the way the team was shaped at Birmingham where we reverted to 4-4-2.
Definitely not available for selection are the injured, Jimmy Bullard, Brian McBride, Kasey Keller and Lee Cook. Also out we fear, through suspension, are Volz and Bouazza.
Therefore Hodgson will select from the following squad
Niemi, Warner, Baird, Omozusi, Hughes, Stefanovic, Bocanegra, Konchesky, Davies, Smertin, Davis, Murphy, Healy, Dempsey, Kuqi, Kamara.
Player to watch: Elliott Omozusi
Coming on leaps and bounds since his elevation from the reserves. A little raw still but just seeing someone form our academy make it this far is a great feeling.
Chelsea Team News:
Chelsea arrive at Craven Cottage with a ready-made book of excuses just in case they`re beaten.
Page one mentions a long injury list that contains the names of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Claude Makelele, Florent Malouda, Petr Cech, Carlo Cudicini and Andriy Shevchenko.
Page two mentions those who are suspended namely Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole.
Page three has the fans carping on about wanting their Jose Mourinho back.
Page four mentions why Avram Grant isn`t good enough, etc. etc.
Don`t be surprised if one or two of the injured makes a miraculous recovery and plays.
Chelsea from - Cech, Hilario, Ferreira, Belletti, Ben Haim, Alex, Bridge, Essien, Mikel, Sidwell, Ballack, Wright-Phillips, J.Cole, Sinclair, Kalou, Pizarro.
Player to watch: Michael Ballack
The German international has just recovered form a lengthy lay-off and is starting to rediscover his form. He looked good against Newcastle but isn`t currently fit enough to last ninety minutes. Despite an indifferent Chelsea career, I for one will be looking to watch one of the greats in action.
Match Facts & Stats
It`s a big brother - little brother thing, well in their eyes. I`m fed up with all the patronisation flaunted in our direction and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to win and wipe the smug smiles off their faces. Okay, we haven`t won for ages and ages but we`ve got to one day and seeing Avram Grant`s record become three defeats in twenty three games would bring a smile to my face.
Normally suggesting a home win over one of the big four would lead to me being taken away in a strait-jacket. This one is different, anything can happen in a local derby and with Chelsea having their book of excuses ready, you get the feeling they are there for the taking. With Roy having taken charge, the team will be geed up and we here at Vital Fulham reckon we can nick it 2-1. Remember where you read it first.
After all the heartache of recent weeks in the Premier League, it`s time to take a break and try our luck in the FA Cup. Our opponents on Saturday are Bristol Rovers.