Two teams struggling for consistency meet in the west London derby when Chelsea travel the short distance to Fulham on Monday.
Defending champions Chelsea have lost one, drawn one and won one of their last three English Premier League matches, with their last outing ending in a 1-0 defeat at home to Liverpool.
While they are no longer embroiled in their worst run of form for over a decade – a sorry record of just two wins in 11 matches between November and January – they are a hefty 10 points behind league leaders Manchester United and cannot afford to drop more points if they are to have any chance of retaining the title.
Owner Roman Abramovich recognised the need for reinforcements at Stamford Bridge and made funds available for the purchase of Fernando Torres from Liverpool for a British-transfer record 50 million pounds, as well as Brazil centre-back David Luiz from Benfica.
With countryman Alex in doubt due to a knee injury, Luiz may make his first Chelsea start at Craven Cottage.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is also without Yury Zirhkov, who is suffering from a calf injury and Yossi Benayoun, who is recovering from an Achilles injury.
Fulham’s patchy form is similar to that of Chelsea.
Mark Hughes’ side have also lost one, drawn one and won one in their last three league outings. Their most recent match ended in a 2-2 draw away to Aston Villa.
They did dispatch Tottenham 4-0 in the FA Cup fourth round on January 30, but have struggled to reproduce that kind of display in the Premier League.
The hosts will be without midfielder Dickson Etuhu and Bobby Zamora, who is nearing a return from the broken leg sustained against Wolverhampton Wanderers in September.
Chelsea won the first meeting between the two teams 1-0 back in November, when a Michael Essien strike in the 30th minute proved to be the winner at Stamford Bridge.