Television coverage speaks the loudest, so Chelsea’s match with Fulham takes place at Craven Cottage on a Monday night kickoff. With the title perhaps out of reach, the Blues will still have the knowledge of Arsenal’s match against Wolves and the Manchester derby. Draws in both of those matches would put Chelsea in the same position they were last Sunday, needing a win to cut the gap.
Fortunately, this match will have less fanfare with a trip to the Cottage being far less appealing than a visit from Fernando Torres’ former employers. That loss will have stung the reigning champions and some of the players have talked about the sour taste at losing a golden opportunity to edge their way back into contention. The team will look to rebound against a Fulham team that is fighting to avoid the drop.
The Cottagers find themselves in 12th place, but in this years Premier League, that’s good enough to still be in danger of relegation. Their 30 points are just four points clear of the drop zone, with 13 matches left to be played. Mark Hughes side seems to have taken on their manager’s mantra of being the master’s of the draw, having drawn 12 of their 26 matches. Their form has improved as of late, with three wins and one draw in their last five matches, with a 4-0 win over Tottenham in the FA Cup as the major win.
Fulham also participated in transfer deadline madness, bringing in current Chelsea squad member Gaël Kakuta on loan and former Chelsea favourite Eidur Gudjohnsen on loan from Stoke.
Carlo Ancelotti’s job will be to pick the squad up after the team was thoroughly beaten by Liverpool last Sunday. While Torres had little impact on the match, he cannot be faulted, as the supply from the midfield was poor. He also cannot be expected to strike up a perfect partnership with Didier Drogba after just 3 days of training ahead of the last match.
With another week of training under their belt, it will be interesting to see how the new diamond gels together. Against Liverpool, it looked quite static and overly narrow, with Anelka, Drogba, and Torres too often in the same areas. There’s much work to do on the current tactics so it will be interesting to see if the pieces fit better this week.
David Luiz was formally unveiled to the press and will be available again, this time without having to fly 1100 miles to finalise a work permit. Fortunately, the recent international friendlies have been kind and provided no new injuries. The only players missing are long-term absentees Yuri Zhirkov, Yossi Benayoun, and Alex.