Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Fulham vs Chelsea: A Preview

As the battle for the top 4 intensifies, Chelsea will be looking to secure all 3 points when they take on Fulham tomorrow. Of the 7 remaining Premier League fixtures Chelsea have, Fulham should be the easiest and anything short of 3 points will really be a disgrace. A disgrace! Everton and Arsenal played to a scoreless draw earlier today and it’s all up to the Chelsea players to capitalize on this golden opportunity. I really can’t convey how disappointing it would be if Chelsea failed to get all 3 points tomorrow. Leaving Craven Cottage* without the 3 points puts us in a situation where we MUST get 3 points versus Liverpool this weekend, and as you may have observed, that has become increasingly difficult in recent seasons.

* The name of Fulham’s home ground makes me giggle. *giggles*

One year older and wiser (*coughs*), what does Rafa have in store for us?

Importance of the 3 points aside, Rafael Benitez has a full strength squad at his disposal except for Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole and Oriol Romeu. The aforementioned 3 are all missing through injury. Fulham have injury problems of their own: Steve Sidwell, Maha(something) Diarra and Damien Duff will all be missing. Injuries considered, I expect Mr. Benitez will put out a very strong team. Personally, I’d like to see Mata, Hazard and Azpilicueta rested. I’m fairly certain we could cope without Azpilicueta but I’m not sure we would be able to make that final pass if neither Hazard nor Mata features. Those 2 really need a break, though. Fulham aren’t a great team and this just might be the perfect game for Oscar to regain some form. Average as Fulham may be, they are not particularly bad. Since their loss to Manchester United (by a singular goal), they have lost 1 (Newcastle), drawn 2 (Norwich and Sunderland) and won 3* (Tottenahm, QPhahaha and the Leicester Tigers Stoke City) so they shouldn’t be underestimated. In Chelsea’s last 6 Premier League games, we have lost 2 (Man City and Southampton) and won 4 (Wigan, WBA, Sunderland and Eden Hazard’s play thing West Ham).

* Please don’t make it 4, Chelsea. PLEASE!! (The tone of this “please” is akin to the one we see in the final scenes of Silver Linings Playbook where Tiffany Maxell tells Pat to “PLEASE” leave her alone.) Like I told you in my initial post, I like movies.

Please don't score, Mr. Berbatov. Please!

Moving on, we need points way more than Fulham do. I would expect Fulham to play deep and try to hit us on the counter. If that is their game plan, Mikel will be needed in midfield to break up play and win challenges when Fulham go forward. Rather than Ramires’ energy, I think a proficient passer would be best suited to play alongside Mikel in central midfield. If we manage to successfully break up any Fulham counter-attacks, a quick and accurate pass from midfield to the forwards could just be what changes the game and Lampard is the ideal candidate to provide such a pass.

Expected Chelsea lineup: Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Betrand; Mikel, Lampard; Hazard, Oscar, Benayoun, Torres.

Expected formation (as if there is anything to guess): 4-2-3-1.

Expected Fulham lineup: Schwarzer; Diether, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise; Emanuelson, Karagounis, Enoh, Richardson; Ruiz, Berbatov.

Expected formation: 4-4-2

Other pointers:

  • Chelsea can go third with a win.
  • I like Berbatov and Ruiz, but I won’t like them tomorrow.
  • If Cech keeps a clean sheet, it will be his 13th of the Premier League season.
  • This will be a derby of the highest magnitude. The whole world will be watching!
  • El Classico who?

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