The final part of the Pre-Match Briefing gets you ready for today's game...
• Chelsea should be tails-up after an impressive derby victory over Tottenham on Wednesday. Willy Caballero deputised for Kepa Arrizabalaga on a night when Spurs managed not a single shot on target for the first time in the top flight under Mauricio Pochettino. Kepa could resume duties this weekend, while Caballero suggested the Wembley substitution incident has left the squad ‘more together than ever’.
• The tactical approaches against City and Spurs were similar and perhaps showed the team is learning. Maurizio Sarri revealed that his players had requested to press the Lilywhites more intelligently, sometimes deeper than previously, which has helped consolidate midfield and made it harder for opponents to play through against a well-organised Blues rearguard. The already impressive N’Golo Kante’s impact in a more box-to-box role has also become immense.
• Pedro, who opened the scoring in midweek, did the same inside five minutes of Fulham’s visit to the Bridge in early December. Goalie Sergio Rico made several good saves before Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s second goal of the campaign settled the points. The young England midfielder, seemingly free of his back problem, will hope to feature against a Fulham side that has been playing in a far more open fashion.
THREE IN ONE QUIZ
• Fulham caretaker manager Scott Parker faces a daunting challenge in his first role as a senior head coach. His side have the reputation of being ‘London’s friendly club’ and some have said that has extended to defending this season, with errors leading to goals conceded. They have particularly struggled to clear the ball from the box. Only Cardiff have permitted more 18-yard area shots in the top flight.
• On arrival, former Blues coach Claudio Ranieri rewarded Aleksandar Mitrovic with the Fulham captaincy when Tom Cairney does not start. The Serbian leads his team’s statistics for league appearances, goals, shots on and off target, offsides, fouls won and conceded and yellow cards, but has scored in only one league game this year. Ryan Sessegnon takes the honours on assists with five. Fulham have scored two goals all season between the 11th and 30th minute while conceding 20.
• The Cottagers have gone into the break in arrears in almost 60 per cent of league matches, and have conceded twice or more in each of their past three home games. In search of change, Ranieri switched to a narrow diamond midfield in the loss at Southampton, his last game in charge, leaving full-backs Joe Bryan and Denis Odoi a little exposed on the flanks.
Maurizio Sarri's pre-match quotes
‘Usually when there is a change of the coach there is a reaction and so we have to fight the reaction, and also it is very difficult for us to prepare the match because we don’t know the new system and the new ideas, so it is a very difficult match.’
Fulham caretaker boss Scott Parker's pre-match quotes
'I have a dying ambition to be a manager, certainly at this present moment in time my main focus is trying to get the team together a little bit, a little stability, take a deep breath and work from there. As a club, as fans, players and ownership we need to regroup and I knowif we do that, results will be a by-product from that.
'I'm not going to sit here and say we can get out of it. I realise the task ahead is very difficult, but it's not mathematically impossible so certainly it's something we'll strive to do.'
Matchday weather outlook
A rainy day by the Thames with some strong wind gusts.