Venue: Craven Cottage
Date: Sunday, 28 December 2008
Kick-off: 1400 GMT
Roy Hodgson will be hoping to celebrate his first year in charge at Fulham with a win over Chelsea at Craven Cottage today. Chelsea meanwhile, might have seen their run of 11 successive wins on the road halted at Goodison although they will be hoping to remain unbeaten on their travels and with Liverpool playing ahead of us and the possibility of starting the game 4 points adrift, the pressure could be all ours.
Ahead of the game, Fulham manager Roy Hodgson says “We’ll approach the game like we’ve approached all the games. Not conceding goals has not been about dragging 11 behind the ball and kicking it into the stand, we’re trying to play as much football as the opposition. At home, the opposition give you more respect but that will not be the case with Chelsea. They will be thinking that three points is what they need.”
Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins meanwhile, says “It is very important that Fulham are doing so well. We will go there and they will be full of confidence after the result against Tottenham. But we had a good result as well and our away form has been very good. We just hope that can continue but it is going to be tough for us. Fulham won’t lie down and allow us to do what we want to do. They will give us a bit of aggravation and that is what we expect. We will go there as best prepared as we can and put up a very good performance. They are our closest rivals so we actually want to put one over on them. But they will make it very tough for us.”
On the injury front, Fulham’s Zoltan Gera (calf), Andranik Teymourian (knee) and Diomansy Kamara (knee) all miss out. Centre- back Brede Hangeland is recovering from flu, whilst Jimmy Bullard faces a late fitness test.
For Chelsea, Michael Essien (knee) and Franco Di Santo (hamstring) remain out, Ricardo Carvalho is unlikely to be fit and John Terry misses his second game of a three-match ban.
Jimmy Bullard – If he passes his fitness test, the talismanic midfielder could take advantage of both Terry and Carvalho’s absence.
Joe Cole – Looked like a man with a point to prove having been given the nod ahead of Deco on Boxing Day. Cole produced an energetic display and if he gets a game again today, will be looking to continue where he left off against West Brom.
Along with the scousers, Fulham are on the longest current unbeaten run in the Premier League (3 wins, 5 draws) and go into this game looking for their seventh home win of the season. The Cottagers have already taken more points off two of the ‘Big Four’ this season than we’ve managed off all three of them, beating Arsenal at Craven Cottage and holding Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at Anfield. Fulham are currently the Premier League’s best home side. They’ve also conceded just one goal in their last six games and go into this one 8th in the table.
Chelsea remain the only unbeaten side away in the Premier League and a win today would signal no away defeats this calendar year. Chelsea have the most lethal attack and tightest defence in the league so far this season and are on a record run of seven successive clean sheets away from home, therefore going into this game as the Premier League’s best away side. We start this game 2nd in the table.
HEAD TO HEAD
Fulham have managed just one win against Chelsea from 15 in the Premier League. In top-flight meetings at Craven Cottage, Fulham have only beaten us twice (March 2006 and September 1960).
Home and Away
League (inc PL): Fulham 7 wins, Chelsea 34 wins, Draws 17
Prem: Fulham 1 win, Chelsea 8 wins, Draws 4
At Fulham only
League (inc PL): Fulham 5 wins, Chelsea 18 wins, Draws 6
Prem: Fulham 1 win, Chelsea 4 wins, Draws 2
Fulham 1-2 Chelsea
Fulham scorer: Murphy 10 pen
Chelsea scorers: Kalou 54, Ballack 62 pen
1 January 2008 – Ref: Mark Halsey
We might have dominated in this fixture since Fulham’s return to the top flight seven years ago but there’s no doubt the Cottagers have improved under Roy Hodgson this season. Chelsea could struggle against a very organised Fulham defence and although they haven’t exactly been prolific up front, the likes of Johnson and Zamora will be looking to test Alex and Ivanovic a lot more than they were against West Brom. Add to that the amount of draws Fulham have recorded so far this season and another scrappy point away could be on the cards.
FULHAM (from): Schwarzer, Konchesky, Pantsil, Baird, Hughes, Murphy, Bullard, Dempsey, Davies, Zamora, Johnson, Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Gray, Etuhu, Stoor, Andreasen, Kallio, Hangeland.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Cudicini, Hilario, Belletti, Bosingwa, Alex, Ivanovic, A Cole, Ferreira, Bridge, Lampard, Deco, Mikel, Lampard, Malouda, Kalou, Anelka, Drogba, Stoch, Mineiro, J Cole
Andre Marriner (West Midlands)