If winning games when performing bad is a sign of a good team then Saturday’s performance makes us world class. Onwards and upwards to Craven Cottage where Martin Jol’s inconsistent team await us. Having beaten Bolton 3-0 on Saturday, Fulham now sit in tenth position in the Premiership with 42 points. Chelsea are hoping that Cole, Lamps and JT could be available for this match whilst Ramires may return having missed the Wigan game due to illness.
For Fulham Bryan Ruiz is definitely out with a broken foot whilst Fulham await late tests on Danny Murphy and free scoring Pavel Pogrebnyak.
A quick glance at the performances of these two on Saturday would suggest that Fulham could be set for only their second victory against Chelsea in 32 league and cup meetings spanning 32 years. Fulham have beaten Chelsea only once in the last 31 league and cup meetings, spanning over 32 years (D11, L19, including defeat in a penalty shootout in the League Cup last month). Their solitary success was 1-0 at Craven Cottage in March 2006, when Luis Boa Morte got the only goal. This will be their third meeting of the season. Chelsea won a third round Carling Cup tie on penalties in September, and they then drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge in the Premiership on Boxing Day, Juan Mata scoring for the Blues and Clint Dempsey for the Cottagers.
This is the 79th meeting between the sides, Chelsea have won 42 times, Fulham just 11 and there have been 25 draws. For Chelsea it’s now eight wins out of 10 in all competitions for Robbie di Matteo since he took over as interim manager. This is another one of those ‘must win’ games that we seemed to have been involved in on a weekly basis in the last few weeks. With half of our last dozen goals having been scored by defenders its time for our forwards to come up with some goals, in order for us to kick on until the end of the season as we battle on three fronts. Other than Scrabble hero Pogrebnyak, Clint Dempsey is Fulham’s main goal scoring threat and he has now scored 15 league goals this season – the most by a Fulham player in a single Premier League season, bettering Louis Saha’s 13 goals in 2003-04.
Changes to the team are almost certain as rotation kicks in as we need to guard against fatigue with so many big games coming up over the next two weeks. After the FA’s pathetic decision to play the FA Cup semi final against the Spuds at 6pm on a Sunday, its going to take some Paul Daniels sleight of hand from RDM to steer us through keeping players fresh for the challenges ahead. The good news is that players such as Kalou, given a chance under Robbie, can at least come in and do a job against some of the lesser teams allowing the big names to focus on the big matches.
My score prediction is 2-0 to the Chels.