GRANT LOOKS TO EXTEND SPECIAL RECORD

By Rowan Farnham-Long
Sep 27th, 2007

So we win a game 4-0 after a turbulent few weeks and all our troubles just drift away. Oh hang on, no they don’t. We have a manager with no badges and no support and a sum total of zero goals in our last three league games.

Two out of three of those problems can, however, be solved on Saturday when Fulham make the short trip to Stamford Bridge, with a rousing reception for Avram Grant and a hatful of goals. I won’t hold my breath for the former and its perhaps wishful thinking for the latter! It’s Grant’s first home game in charge and all eyes will be on the Israeli to put on a good show, and preserve our incredible home record.

The majority of fans are still understandably against the appointment of Grant but the key message before this game is to get behind the team. After the win over Hull City confidence must be returning to the squad, and an impassioned crowd can do wonders to morale.

Expect changes from the midweek side, and with Grant still casting an eye over the squad it will be interesting to see who he chooses in the starting XI. Chelsea should still be without Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Ballack through injury, and John Obi Mikel is suspended following the farcical sending-off at Old Trafford. It is more than likely that Petr Cech and Joe Cole will return to the starting line-up but will Paulo Ferreira and Andriy Shevchenko force themselves back in despite good performances from Juliano Belletti and Claudio Pizarro on Wednesday? Questions only Avram (or Roman perhaps) can answer at 3PM on Saturday.

Fulham are without Brian McBride and the popular Jimmy Bullard who are sidelined with knee injuries. The Cottagers are struggling near the bottom of the table after an indifferent start to the season and their last two Premier League games finished 3-3. Is that the kind of entertainment Roman wants to see then? Lawrie Sanchez’s side also succumbed to a 1-2 defeat on Wednesday night to Bolton, sending them out of the Carling Cup and leaving them without a win in their last four games in all competitions.

Last year Fulham came to Stamford Bridge during our Christmas period to forget. After we thought a 2-2 draw with Reading at home was bad enough, four days later our West London neighbours kicked us while we were down. Moritz Volz’s opener was cancelled out by our men missing in action now, Lampard and Drogba, so 2-1 up at Stamford Bridge, game over surely? Not quite, as Carlos Bocanegra hit a late equaliser to snatch a well-deserved draw.

This time it has to be different, not least because Lampard and Drogba are not here to bail us out again! If Avram Grant is ever to win round the fans he needs to show his (disputed) credentials immediately, starting on Saturday. I’m fairly certain that whatever the final score, we won’t quite be saying, “José who?”, but then, it will take something special to surpass the special one. Over to you Avram.

Prediction: Another smile from Avram as he wins his first home game in charge. Fulham are leaking goals recently and we are fully capable of taking advantage. I’m looking for a 2-0 professional win or even a 3-0 if Roman has his way and we put in an attacking master class.

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