Fulham make the two-mile journey to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening as we prepare for our first West London derby of the new season.
We face a Chelsea side who have endured an eventful 2012/13 campaign to date, with the latest news being the arrival of Rafael Benitez at the helm following Roberto Di Matteo’s dismissal.
Benitez’s first match as Blues boss saw them hold Manchester City to a goalless draw at the weekend. It was a game which saw the Spaniard subjected to a series of boos from the home fans, but Martin Jol expects the Chelsea supporters to come around once he’s secured a few victories for his new side.
“He was at Liverpool and he said probably a few things about Chelsea,” Jol suggested as a reason for the fans’ reaction to the appointment. “I did that in the past because you are like a chameleon; you’ve got the colours of the club you are at, and that is what he did. After a couple of wins, I feel that he will win them over.
“It’s not only about the manager; it’s about the club and it’s about winning games. But hopefully that won’t start for them on Wednesday!
“I think it had more to do with Di Matteo. He was much appreciated there because he did well as a player and, I think, he did well as a manager, to be fair. So it was not a decision that everyone could understand so you get this sort of thing. But Rafa Benitez is a true professional who has been in this business for a long time so he is tough enough.
“You could say it’s a nice time to play Chelsea but, on the other hand, it’s the second game [under Benitez] so I feel it’s a must-win game for them. They will have to win or it will be problematic.”
Fulham have not won at the home of our local rivals since 1979, although we pushed them close last season.
“Last year in the League Cup against Chelsea it was a draw,” Jol said. “The league game there was a draw and in the home game we had a draw. So we had three draws which was not bad, but we couldn’t beat them. Hopefully we will beat them at Stamford Bridge soon and maybe that day will be on Wednesday.”
Our Manager also provided an update as to the personnel he has available at his disposal ahead of our derby match.
“Kerim Frei will be in the squad but Bryan Ruiz is still injured so he won’t be involved,” he explained. “That will probably take another week – [Alexander] Kačaniklić as well.
“Simon Davies is a long-term injury but he will start training next week. Kieran Richardson is ready to train with us but he won’t be involved on Wednesday – he could be available for the Tottenham Hotspur match.