Fulham make the short commute to Stamford Bridge to contest the first SW6 derby of the season on Saturday afternoon (5.30pm).
But we’ll do so without a handful of First Team regulars after Bryan Ruiz joined Maarten Stekelenburg, Aaron Hughes and Matthew Briggs in the treatment room, while Dimitar Berbatov faces a test on a hamstring strain to determine whether or not he’ll be included in the squad. Striker Darren Bent will be back in contention, though, after sitting out last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion.
Chelsea have no new injury concerns and could hand a start to captain John Terry, who was rested for their midweek UEFA Champions League match, while manager Jose Mourinho will keep fans guessing as to who will get the nod up top out of Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres or Demba Ba.
We go into the clash looking for our first win at the Bridge since 1979, but can certainly take solace in the fact that we’ve drawn our last two Barclays Premier League matches there, in addition to a tight League Cup affair two seasons ago where our hosts narrowly advanced courtesy of a penalty shoot-out.
Chelsea go into Saturday’s encounter looking to address their worst start to a top-flight season in a decade. Having kicked off promisingly with back-to-back victories over Hull City and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge, they went on to draw at Old Trafford – a result not to be sniffed at – before losing away at Everton last weekend.
There has not been any respite on the continent, either, as they conceded a late equaliser against Bayern Munich in the Super Cup before going on to lose on penalties, and their Champions League campaign got off to a horrific start on Wednesday when Basel became the first Swiss side to win in England since 1995.
It’s been a summer of change over on the blue side of SW6, with the returning Mourinho joined at the club by a host of new signings. Eto’o – who played under Mourinho at Inter Milan – added to their striking options when he made the move from Anzhi Makhachkala, while more youthful additions joined in the guises of midfielder Marco van Ginkel from Vitesse, winger Andre Schurrle from Bayer Leverkusen, and playmaker Willian, also from Anzhi.
While Van Ginkel, Schurrle and Willian set the Blues back an estimated £56m, they bolstered their goalkeeping department with the shrewd acquisition of Mark Schwarzer on a free transfer following the expiry of his contract with Fulham.
A brief glance at the scoreline from our midweek match with Chelsea five months ago suggests that our neighbours cantered to victory at the Cottage, but the result far from tells the whole story.
Fulham dominated the opening exchanges and could have broken the deadlock as early as the third minute when Ruiz connected with Sascha Riether’s cross, only to put his effort over the bar under pressure from David Luiz.
Berbatov saw a strike deflected wide midway through the first half, while Giorgos Karagounis flashed a dangerous effort just over Petr Cech’s crossbar, with John Arne Riise next to try his luck.
It looked like if anyone was going to score then it would be Fulham, and so it was a complete sucker-punch when Chelsea took the lead through an absolute screamer from Luiz. The centre-back picked the ball up in the middle of the park and advanced a few paces before letting rip with a screamer that whistled into the back of the net from a good 35 yards out.
Urby Emanuelson and Berbatov both squandered chances to equalise and the Whites then conceded a crucial second goal on the stroke of half-time when Terry headed in at the far post. Mladen Petrić had a golden opportunity to pull one back in the second half but could only succeed in turning Philippe Senderos’ goal-bound header over the bar, with the Blues rubbing salt in our wounds by nabbing a third through Terry two minutes later.
Oscar: Chelsea’s top scorer this season so far with two goals, Oscar has continued where he left off in his impressive debut campaign when he made 64 appearances following his move from Internacional. An exciting attacking player, the Brazil international can play anywhere in midfield or just behind the striker and can find a pass or the back of the net with devastating accuracy.
Frank Lampard: The scourge of Fulham over the years, Lampard continues to be an integral part of the Chelsea engine room, with the midfielder’s goals against Aston Villa in May ensuring he replaced Bobby Tambling as the club’s all-time leading scorer. With more than 600 appearances for the Blues under his belt, it’s no surprise the England man holds legendary status at Stamford Bridge.
Eden Hazard: The Belgian playmaker has played almost every minute possible under Mourinho so far this season and will likely start against the Whites on Saturday. A successful 2012/13 saw him net 15 times for club and country, racking up 69 appearances in the process. Another skilful individual very much in the Oscar mould, Mourinho needs to find the right balance as he looks to get the most out his various attacking midfielders.
9 – Eto’o could become the ninth African to score a Premier League goal for Chelsea (after Drogba, Kalou, Essien, Babayaro, Geremi, Weah, Ba and Moses).
1 – Fulham won only one of their five London derbies away from home in the 2012/13 Premier League season (L2 D2).
0 – Fernando Torres is yet to record a shot on target in the Premier League this season (126 minutes of action).
11 – Fulham have managed only 11 shots from inside the penalty area this season, a divisional low.
2 – Martin Jol lost both of his Premier League games at Stamford Bridge as Tottenham Hotspur manager but has drawn both as Fulham supremo.
0 – Mourinho has never lost a Premier League home game (W48 D14).
32 – Fulham have conceded more corners than any other Barclays Premier League side so far this season.