It is Sunday lunch at the neighbours this weekend with one-and-a-half miles and 13 places in the Premier League table separating our two clubs. Chelsea club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton debate another derby…
The second of Chelsea’s two London derbies this week is the first all-west London affair on the banks of the Thames for five years and two days (the Blues remain in the Smoke for the next two matches, too).
Andre Schurrle, currently plying his trade at Craven Cottage, will need no reminding he secured his only hat-trick in royal blue in the 3-1 win in our last meeting there (see our History part tomorrow for more on previous west London derbies).
This is the last time this season the Cottagers will face rivals from the same city, which may come as some comfort. These games have been capital punishment for them so far – they could become the first London side to lose 10 derby games in one season.
Fulham’s last three coaches have had Stamford Bridge connections.
Claudio Ranieri was dismissed as Fulham boss yesterday and his freshly installed replacement, in a caretaker role, Scott Parker, joined the Blues under the Italian in 2004 but in recent years was coach of Tottenham Under-18s. The new caretaker originally stepped up as assistant at Fulham to another former Blues midfielder, Slavisa Jokanovic, just last summer.
Chelsea are seeking a fourth successive clean sheet in all competitions.
— Key stat
‘Tottenham Hotspur… it’s happened again,’ sang Wednesday’s crowd at Stamford Bridge – the same theatre that staged the dramatic end to Spurs’ title campaign three years ago. The Lilywhites have now lost their past four games on the road in all competitions, two of them at the hands of their royal blue rivals.
Never the less, a rejuvenated Chelsea travel across the borough on Sunday knowing our goal difference as well as the points total may need improving to finish the campaign in a Champions League position.
Elsewhere this weekend third and fourth, Tottenham and Arsenal, square up at Wembley while fifth-placed Manchester United host striving Southampton. None of those three teams are in league action the weekend after next, when the Blues will be at Everton.
Chelsea’s involvement in the ‘west London derby’ – a match against Brentford, Fulham or Queen’s Park Rangers – was quite regular from the turn of the Millennium up to the last top-flight meeting at Loftus Road in April 2015. It returned this season after a three-season hiatus.
Including December’s 2-0 win, in the league since 2010 the Blues have played the Cottagers nine times (five wins, four draws) and the Rs on six occasions (three wins, one draw, and two defeats).
Europa League Catch-Up
Dynamo Kiev’s leading Europa League marksman, winger Benjamin Verbic, will miss our meeting at the Bridge on Thursday as he serves a one-match ban for accruing three cautions.
That famous Chelsea comeback against Tottenham in May 2016 made champions of Claudio Ranieri’s then club, Leicester, but on Friday the Italian paid the price for falling short in a very different challenge across our parish. Parker picks up the baton with the Whites 19th in the table, eight points behind Cardiff a place above.
When they went down 2-0 in Wednesday’s ‘six-pointer’ at Southampton it was their fourth defeat in succession and left them 10 points shy of the Saints and safety. Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez, among others, has suggested 38 points will be the plimsoll line for Premier League survival this season.
Only Palace and Huddersfield have worse home records in the top flight than Fulham, although they have gathered 15 of their 17 points at Craven Cottage. They have conceded 63 goals, the most in the Premier League, and continuing at that rate over the remaining 10 games would place them in historic company.
Next weekend’s visitors Wolves, without a league win for a month and beaten at Huddersfield in midweek, are at home to relegation strugglers Cardiff on Saturday.
Subsidised £10 travel is available for supporters wishing to attend Chelsea Women’s FA Cup quarter-final tie at Durham Ladies on Sunday 17 March, a noon kick-off.
There will be another opportunity for John Terry to cast his eye over Chelsea youngsters when the Under-18s play Aston Villa at Bodymoor Heath on Saturday morning, an 11am kick-off.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND…
Chelsea: pride of the postcode.
Premier League fixtures
Tottenham v Arsenal 12.30pm - BT Sport
Bournemouth v Manchester City 3pm
Brighton v Huddersfield 3pm
Burnley v Crystal Palace 3pm
Manchester United v Southampton 3pm
Wolves v Cardiff 3pm
West Ham v Newcastle 5.30pm - Sky Sports
Watford v Leicester 12pm - Sky Sports
Fulham v Chelsea 2.05pm - Sky Sports
Everton v Liverpool 4.15pm - Sky Sports