Fulham host Chelsea in a west London derby that both sides will be desperate to win for very different reasons. The Cottagers are adrift at the bottom of the table whilst the Blues are clear at the top and whilst there is a huge 39 points between the teams, this game could be a lot closer than the table suggests.
Fulham are on their third manager of the campaign, with former Bayern Munich boss and German international Felix Magath now at the helm following Martin Jol and Rene Meulensteen. Magath is well known for being a tough disciplinarian who places a lot of emphasis on fitness and organisation, earning him the nickname “Saddam” and leading one former player to call him the “last dictator in Europe”.
If the players buy in to his methods he could be just what Fulham need but if they don’t he could be a total disaster. In his last job he led Wolfsburg to survival from a difficult position and that is exactly what is needed here with Fulham four points away from West Brom in 17th. Magath began life at Fulham with a 1-1 draw at the Baggies but could have won the game as his side led until the 86th minute. Fulham would have been fortunate to get the win but there were signs, even after just a few days in charge, that the German was reshaping the side into a much more workmanlike and disciplined outfit and that could make them hard for the Pensioners to breakdown.
Of course, unpicking the defences of sides set out to defend against them – or play 19th century football if you prefer Jose’s vernacular – has been a problem for Chelsea all season. They lack a top notch striker and, despite their wealth of creative talents in the attacking midfield areas, they do not create enough clear cut chances. With the home side certain to defend in numbers and work exceptionally hard off the ball there is every danger that Jose Mourinho’s men could slip up here, giving Arsenal a chance to return to the top of the Premier League.
The visitors will not have been helped by the fact that they had a game away at Galatasaray on Wednesday either. It was a tough match and the 1-1 draw again demonstrated Chelsea’s occasional lack of cutting edge. Mourinho has no new injury concerns from the game though and David Luiz remains the only doubt, whilst the Cottagers are in a similar position in terms of their squad.
Back in September Chelsea won 2-0 at the Bridge whilst they won the corresponding fixture last season 3-0. The four games before that, two each at either ground, ended in 1-1 or 0-0 draws and we fancy this one will be similarly close, or perhaps settled by a single goal. It really is a tough one to call but spring is in the air and we’re feeling optimistic so 1-0 to the Blues it is!
LCN Verdict: 1-0 to Chelsea