Chelsea face a short stroll along the Thames path to Fulham for the first west London derby of the season, and club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton provide their preview here…
The Blues have won 11 and drawn four of our past 17 league matches played on this day of the week, and are unbeaten in five since February 2020. The hosts are currently on a winless run of nine Premier League derbies, failing to score in six of them.
Both teams hosted Carabao Cup matches on Wednesday and will therefore appreciate the delay to 8pm Monday. Fulham edged past Championship Norwich, while Chelsea beat top-flight rivals Brighton, preventing the top-flight’s leading goalscorers from scoring for the first time this season.
The Blues have also kept a clean sheet in seven of our last 10 matches against our closest neighbours, conceding just four goals in that run. However, in the league we have lost eight of our past nine away matches against teams starting the day higher in the table since a 2-1 win at Man City in May 2021.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men will have to exhibit the same grit and quality that closed out the midweek cup win with 10 men against Marco Silva’s combative postcode rivals.
Statistics show Chelsea have the highest average possession in the top-flight, just ahead of Man City. But until the team start converting that dominance into wins, as on Wednesday, that is merely an impressive feather in the cap.
Pochettino faces mixed news on selections. Midweek hero Nico Jackson must serve his one-match suspension for five accumulated cautions, but Cole Palmer’s Robben-esque assist in his first start suggested the 21-year-old is finding his rhythm.
Striker Armando Broja looked robust on his midweek return but, given the Albanian’s long lay-off, playing a ‘false 9’ such as Palmer, the increasingly confident Mykhailo Mudryk, or Raheem Sterling might be considered.
In league games this season 43 per cent of Chelsea attacks have been initiated down Sterling’s flank, compared to 29 per cent down the left and 28 per cent through the middle. That’s the third highest bias to that flank in the top flight behind Forest and Sheffield United.
Whoever has the nod, the Blues will want to extract full advantage from the hosts’ tendency to concede fouls in and around their 18-yard area. No side has conceded as many penalties as Fulham’s three.
Like Brighton, Fulham press relentlessly and are adept at blocking easy options to play out from the back. In the first half of Wednesday’s win Robert Sanchez’s longer passes to beat the press regularly went astray, but his distribution improved after the break as his team-mates’ movement became better.
Poch will be pleased Carney Chukwuemeka, a mobile and creative link between midfield and attack, unavailable since his stunning equaliser at West Ham, is back in full training. Benoit Badiashile, Trevoh Chalobah and Reece James should soon follow suit.
However, Wednesday was a case of another game, another wide player out of action. Hamstrung Ben Chilwell faces another spell on the sidelines, affecting options in two areas. Mudryk has started at left wing ahead of the England man in recent outings, but will Levi Colwill continue in a wide role or retain the centre? Marc Cucurella and Ian Maatsen are the most natural alternatives at left-back; Malo Gusto sits out the second of three matches for last weekend’s red card.
Opposition scout – Fulham
There was an all-too familiar ring to Marco Silva’s call for this Fulham side to become more ruthless in front of goal after Wednesday’s 2-1 Carabao Cup victory over Championship Norwich at Craven Cottage.
Alex Iwobi, a forward Silva has signed to two different clubs, scored his first goal since arriving on deadline day. But in the league, with record-breaking striker Aleksandar Mitrovic departed and summer signing from Wolves Raul Jimenez still to get off the mark, our postcode rivals have netted just five times – the same as Chelsea.
Unlike the chance-squandering Blues, though, Burnley and Sheffield United are the only teams more shot-shy this season than the Cottagers, and only Nottingham Forest have a higher percentage of attempts from outside the box. On top of that, only five clubs have conceded more goals.
That said, the hosts are physical, aggressive and hard-working, epitomised by sought-after central midfielder Joao Palhinha. They press relentlessly from the front (ranking fourth for tackles made in the attacking third) and are very direct, with lots of crosses from full-backs.
Missing for the Cottagers will be defender Tosin Adarabioyo and speedster Adama Traore, though midfielder Sasa Lukic and possibly right-back Kenny Tete will be available again.
West London Derby – the history
This will be Chelsea’s 51st west London derby – played against either Fulham, Brentford or QPR. The Blues have won 54 per cent of those played up to now, and lost 14 per cent. Nineteen of those victories came against our postcode neighbours and just two defeats, one of them being last season’s corresponding fixture.
Premier League West London Derbies 1992-2023
Throughout the Premier League era the Cottagers have claimed the fewest points per ‘WLD’ while contesting the second most matches. Yet in January Chelsea were drawing 1-1 at Craven Cottage, thanks to Kalidou Koulibaly’s prodded equaliser, when Joao Felix was sent off on his debut. A misjudgment from Kepa allowed Vinicius to head home what proved the winner. That is the only time in the past 14 Premier League meetings we have spent time trailing to our neighbours.
Prior to last season’s haul, the Cottagers had earned the same number of points (four) from the previous 15 meetings, losing 11 times. Our greatest margin of victory at the Cottage is three goals, achieved three times as 3-0 (most recently April 2013, when John Terry helped himself to a brace) but more emphatically in the 4-1 of November 2004.
Jose Mourinho’s newly installed league leaders were inspired by winger Arjen Robben, just back from injury, who scored one goal, made another, and tormented the Whites to such an extent a handful of opponents was frequently left on the floor. Frank Lampard opened the scoring before Papa Bouba Diop levelled, but the Netherlander almost immediately restored the lead. William Gallas and substitute Tiago completed the rout.
Monday nights past
Having introduced live Friday football to the TV nation with a 0-0 draw at Middlesbrough on 11 December 1992, Chelsea had to wait till 1 March 1993 for a debut on Monday Night Football, a scheduling slot borrowed from American Football.
It was worth the wait, though, as the Blues beat Arsenal at Stamford Bridge and leapfrogged our oldest London rivals in the table. The winner was an 81st-minute strike by Graham Stuart, nutmegging David Seaman for a happy homecoming for recently installed manager Dave Webb, and the Blues’ first win in 14 matches.
Even though we weren’t actually playing we were a talking point in Sky Sports’ second ever Monday show on 24 August 1992. Members of the group Curiosity performed a song for viewers before coverage of Southampton’s home defeat by Man United, curiously electing to show their Chelsea allegiances in replica shirt form. (Well, former Blue Ken Monkou was making his Saints debut.)
Our most recent appearance in this time slot was back in February 2021 at the Bridge with Steve Bruce’s Newcastle the visitors. Timo Werner ended his 14-league game goal drought having already served up Oli Giroud’s opener eight minutes earlier to complete a 2-0 win, lifting Thomas Tuchel’s team up to fourth.
Round four of the Carabao Cup brings Blackburn to the Bridge on Tuesday 1 November at 7.45pm, only their second visit in this competition. The October 1997 precedent was an eventful one.
Robbie Di Matteo nullified Billy McKinlay's opener and Luca Vialli, who would later replace Ruud Gullit and lift the trophy as player-manager, was sent off in extra-time. Happily, the Blues breezed the penalty shoot-out 4-1.
Both League Cup meetings since were at Ewood Park: October 2006 (won 2-0) and December 2009 (drew 3-3, lost shoot-out 4-3).
Age just a number
We could be looking at a large disparity in experience at kick-off. Four of Fulham’s starters against Crystal Palace last weekend were aged 30 or more, producing an average of 30.1 – compared to just 24.9 for Chelsea’s opening 11 against Aston Villa. Tim Ream and Blues legend Willian, both now 35, were the Whites’ senior team members, while at 26 their most junior participants, Diop and Robinson, were older than nine of the Bluesline-up, being younger than Raheem Sterling (28) and Thiago Silva (39).
By coincidence, the largest age gap recorded by Opta for a Premier League game involving Chelsea is the six years and 162 days that separated the Blues (25 years and 234 days) and Fulham (32 years, 32 days) in November 2012. The biggest ever between two Premier League starting XIs is eight years and 113 days, when Portsmouth (30 years and 351 days) faced Arsenal (22 years, 237 days) in May 2009.