After a brief interlude, to ensure we reach the Europa League group stages, we resume our Premier League campaign with our second fixture of the season, a tasty encounter with that lot down the road, Chelsea. Last season we drew 2-2 with them at the Cottage but went down 3-1 at Stamford Bridge. Hopefully, this season will prove to be more productive points wise against a side looking to knock Manchester United off their perch as Premier League title holders.
Ahead of the derby Roy Hodgson gives the impression of an apprehensive man when he remarked in his pre-match press conference,
“It’s a very tough game for us because it’s a local derby and they are a team who don’t lose very many in the course of the season.”
‘Everyone seems to think Chelsea this year will have a very good chance of challenging Manchester United and Liverpool for the title with Arsenal as slight outsiders in that group of four.”
‘When you are playing any of those teams either home or away you know you’ve got a real tough challenge on your hands.”
‘We’ve won all our matches so far and have only conceded one goal which is very satisfying but we know that out of those matches we have played none have been in the top four and we do know that when we do face one of those top four, we will be sorely tested.”
Time to find out then Roy!
Fulham Team News:
Roy Hodgson will be without the services of Andrew Johnson who was crudely fouled in our encounter with Amkar Perm on Thursday night. But, on the positive side, there is the chance that Simon Davies could make his long awaited comeback from injury after his foot injury. There`s also the added bonus of Damien Duff possibly making his Premier League debut against his former club. As for Jonathan Greening, you tell me if he`s actually a Fulham player yet or not?
Knowing how Roy likes to keep a regular starting eleven we can`t see him moving much away from:
Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Gera, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey, Zamora and Nevland.
If he is to juggle things around he could well put Dempsey up front to accommodate Duff, we shall wait and see.
Player to watch: Brede Hangeland
If we`re to get anything out of this game it`s essential that the giant Norwegian keeps Didier Drogba quiet, if not it could be a long afternoon.
Chelsea Team News:
Chelsea will have five players unavailable through injury in J.Cole, Ferreira, Alex, Belletti and Zhirkov. But their squad is packed rich with talent and there`s every possibility that they`ll field a side of eleven internationals, probably,
Cech, Bosingwa, Terry, Carvalho, A.Cole, Mikel, Essien, Lampard, Ballack, Anelka and Drogba
Player to watch: Michael Essien
A powerhouse who could quite easily run roughshod over our midfield and leave us chasing the game. His battle with Dickson Etuhu, if he recovers from a groin injury, could be the key factor.
Match Facts & Stats
We tend to do better against Chelsea at Craven Cottage than we do in visits to Stamford Bridge. Last season we drew 2-2 and back in March 2006 we celebrated as if there was no tomorrow when we emerged 1-0 victors, sadly that was our only win over that lot from down the road for a considerable period.
The man in the middle hoping for a far from contentious affair is Andre Marriner.
I`ve just got this feeling that Sunday could be our day. The Cottage will be packed to capacity and Roy will ensure we`re difficult to break down. I reckon we`ll sneak it 1-0!
Next up for Fulham is the long trek to the Urals to face Amkar Perm in the second leg of our Europa League qualifying tie.