It’s back to the Premier League campaign this weekend after a rare full week of preparation time. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look local for Saturday’s serving of derby action…
With nothing to go out for in lockdown, Chelsea fans have been lucky to have regular entertainment in the form of football matches. This time it will be a trip to Fulham and the north bank of the River Thames.
That embankment was built by the Mears family who went on to found Chelsea in 1905, but rivalry between the two near neighbours since then has rarely reached fever pitch because this west London derby happens only sporadically.
Even when the two clubs were in the same division local families used to interchange between the two stadiums each weekend. That has not been the case recently, and there have been just two of these derbies since 2014.
Chelsea have unequalled success at Stamford Bridge against newly promoted clubs in the Premier League, and are almost as good on the road. In the past 19 away games against such teams the Blues have recorded 14 wins, three draws and two defeats.
Former Blues midfielder Scott Parker’s first match as coach of the Cottagers was a 2-1 loss to Chelsea in March 2019, and the Blues are targeting a sixth successive league victory against our closest neighbours for the first time in nearly 61 years.
Chelsea have lost once to Fulham in the past 38 meetings across all competitions.
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
This fixture was put back from Friday to accommodate the Whites’ hastily scheduled visit to Tottenham in midweek, which ended 1-1. The extra day and a midweek free of action has ensured Chelsea are fully fit and prepared for the short trip across the borough, though N’Golo Kante is suspended.
Billy Gilmour took on the holding role in the FA Cup last weekend, though Jorginho is another replacement Frank Lampard might consider. Other players such as Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell were handed a complete break last weekend but seem certain to return on Saturday.
The 4-0 victory over well-drilled League Two side Morecambe provided plenty of confidence boosts for a Chelsea squad look for a big improvement in league results. Goals are a striker’s lifeblood and Timo Werner will be buoyed by his first in a while, and Kai Havertz came off the bench and looked ready to start after his Covid travails.
Between them, Chelsea’s young Germans have contributed to 26 goals and assists this season. It is also worth noting that Mason Mount’s astute opener (yet another from outside the box) was his first goal since West Brom away in September; perhaps that is why he was not rotated last weekend.
Other positives included seeing Hakim Ziyech looking more comfortable after his return from injury, a cameo from promising Academy graduate Tino Anjorin, some minutes for Fikayo Tomori and further evidence that Callum Hudson-Odoi is returning to his very best.
It will be interesting to see who starts as centre-forward against Fulham’s back three – Werner, Olivier Giroud or Tammy Abraham. The England striker could point to the statistic that Chelsea’s only league win without his participation came on the opening day at Brighton. He was in the starting 11 for each of the rest except Leeds, when he was a late substitute.
Ten points separate the teams in the top half of the Premier League, and this season is clearly like no other. Anything could happen for the team that racks up a run of wins before May, and there is no time like the present to start.
Drawing first blood on Saturday could prove significant: Fulham have conceded lead-taking goals 11 times in the league and only equalised on three occasions. They have failed to score in half their matches at Craven Cottage.
Strengthening under Scott
After a strenuous comeback against Tottenham in midweek, Fulham are undefeated in six games across all competitions, conceding just three goals. Yet five of those were drawn and one a victory, at QPR in the FA Cup. This is their second west London derby in eight days.
After a poor start to the season, their manager Scott Parker bolstered his team’s defending all over the pitch. Players who had underpinned promotion, such as striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and midfielder Tom Cairney, have not figured so much recently, and the former Chelsea midfielder has settled on the extra security offered by a back five, including Chelsea Academy graduate Ola Aina.
The buccaneering USA wing-back Antonee Robinson is one of those brought in who has excelled in the past few matches, along with Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, whose streetwise steel in defensive midfield typifies where Parker has improved his young and lively team.
He will miss the dynamism of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, ineligible against his parent club, who ran the second half against Tottenham, but has plenty of others keen to take the game to opponents. With Mitrovic injured on Wednesday, Ademola Lookman’s introduction added energy and incisiveness.
Where they still struggling is hitting the net, with only six goals in eight home games this campaign. Only Burnley, West Bromwich and Sheffield United, with five, have scored fewer. Bobby Decordova-Reid is their leading scorer with four, one shy of his tally from 27 Premier League games for Cardiff City in 2018/19.
A good goalkeeper can make the difference at either end of the table in the season’s final knockings, and Alphonse Areola has come out and claimed more crosses than any other goalie so far. His commanding performance against Spurs kept the Cottagers in touch and ultimately enabled them to share the points through Ivan Cavaleiro’s header.
How to watch Fulham vs Chelsea
This match will be covered live by Sky Sports in the UK.
To find the relevant broadcaster where you are elsewhere, see the Premier League’s broadcast schedule pages
Our Blues-centred match coverage on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and official YouTube channel begins 70 minutes before kick-off with assessment of the teamsheets and exclusive interviews.
Oh west London…
Chelsea-Fulham fixtures have been on the list only once (in 2018/19) since 2014, when a run of 13 successive seasons in the same division came to an end.
Of all the Premier League’s local derbies over the past decade, this west London variety has been the most one-sided, with the Blues victorious in 64 per cent of encounters and the Cottagers zero. Overall, Fulham’s top-flight win percentage of six against Chelsea is the lowest recorded by any team against an opponent in a fixture played 50 times or more.
The next most one-sided derby is on Merseyside, where Liverpool have won 48 per cent and Everton four. North London clashes are the most even matches, with nothing to choose between Arsenal and Tottenham, followed by Manchester, where City have the slight edge over United.
In all-London games, Fulham tasted defeat in each of their 10 two seasons ago, the last time they were in the top flight, and three such games already this campaign. The comeback at Tottenham on Wednesday earned the Cottagers’ first point in a Premier League derby since the 2-2 with Palace in May 2014.
The relegation battle
Fulham are only two points from safety and have games in hand on all those around them except Burnley. Yet history still stacks the odds against the Cottagers surviving as theirs is the 13th worst points tally after 16 games of a Premier League campaign recorded by any club new to the division. It will be little consolation to Scott Parker that the current West Bromwich side have the worst record.
Eight of the previous 11 promoted teams with fewer points than Fulham have at this stage (including the Whites themselves in 2018/19) ended the season as a relegated team. Only three escaped the drop: the Baggies (2004/05), Wolves 2010/11 and Leicester (2014/15).
Nor does the track record of Championship play-off victors inspire hope for those who love a west London derby. Fulham under Claudio Ranieri two seasons ago are just one of five clubs of the past six Wembley winners to have been relegated within two years.
|2014/15||QPR||20th and relegated|
|2015/16||Norwich||19th and relegated|
|2016/17||Hull||18th and relegated|
|2017/18||Huddersfield||16th (relegated in 2019)|
|2018/19||Fulham||19th and relegated|
Warren not forgotten
An appeal was launched this week to raise money for the repair of the broken grave memorial of brilliant midfielder Ben Warren, who racked up a century of matches for Chelsea between 1908 and 1911. The Pensioners and England star suffered a career-threatening injury in October 1911 and, tragically, suffered mental ill-health as a result.
He died in hospital in 1917 and was buried at St John’s churchyard in his hometown of Newhall, Derbyshire. Thanks in no small part to the generosity of Blues supporters, the crowdfund target was reached in just three days, and work on the headstone restoration is planned for the summer, pandemic permitting.
Premier League fixtures
Wolves v West Brom 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Leeds v Brighton 3pm (Sky Sports)
West Ham v Burnley 3pm (Amazon Prime)
Fulham v Chelsea 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Leicester v Southampton 8pm (BT Sport)
Aston Villa v Everton 12 noon (Sky Sports) POSTPONED
Sheffield Utd v Tottenham 2.05pm (Sky Sports)
Liverpool v Man Utd 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
Man City v Crystal Palace 7.15pm (Sky Sports)
Arsenal v Newcastle 8pm (Sky Sports)
|10||West Ham United||17||7||5||5||24||21||3||26|
|17||Brighton and Hove Albion||18||2||8||8||21||29||-8||14|
|19||West Bromwich Albion||17||1||5||11||11||39||-28||8|