Preview: Fulham vs. Chelsea

Preview: Fulham vs. Chelsea

Monday night’s Premier League offering comes in the shape of a West London derby, as Fulham welcome fellow bottom-half strugglers Chelsea to Craven Cottage.

Both teams achieved one-goal wins in their third-round EFL Cup ties in midweek, as the Cottagers overcame Norwich City 2-1, while the Blues bested Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0.

Stringing a respectable set of results together heading into the hectic autumn schedule, Fulham welcomed Norwich back to Premier League territory for their EFL Cup showdown in midweek, where Carlos Vinicius and Alex Iwobi propelled the Cottagers into the last 16.

Borja Sainz’s response with 15 minutes left to go proved nothing more than a mere consolation for the Canaries, as Marco Silva’s men stretched their unbeaten run in all tournaments to three matches and set up another tie with Championship opposition; Ipswich Town await in round four.

The hosts’ success over Norwich came four days after a drab goalless draw with fellow capital outfit Crystal Palace, which saw Silva’s troops enter the weekend occupying 11th place in the table – a position they will hold before Nottingham Forest and Brentford do battle on Sunday.

By avoiding an EFL Cup upset, Fulham head into Monday’s tantalising derby having only lost one of their last six matches in all tournaments – and few can knock them for going down to treble winners Manchester City at the Etihad – and a third Premier League clean sheet in succession could be on the menu here.

Shutting out Luton Town on September 16 saw Fulham end an eight-game run without a Premier League clean sheet at Craven Cottage, and while they have failed to win each of their last nine London derbies in the top flight, there are no prizes for guessing who their most recent capital triumph came against.

As was the case in August, Chelsea restored a small slice of pride in the EFL Cup amid another disheartening spell of Premier League football, keeping Brighton at bay at Stamford Bridge and belatedly picking up their first win of the month thanks to Nicolas Jackson.

Also snapping the Blues’ miserable three-game streak without making the net bulge, the Senegalese striker – whose early Premier League exploits have left a lot to be desired – calmly side-footed home into the bottom corner to set up a fourth-round encounter with Blackburn Rovers.

Narrow victories in the cup are all well and good, but Mauricio Pochettino’s expensively-assembled squad make the short journey to Craven Cottage without a win or indeed a goal – despite their favourable xG statistics – in each of their last three Premier League fixtures, succumbing to an Ollie Watkins strike against Aston Villa last weekend.

With just a 3-0 humbling of Luton Town to boast about from their last 10 top-flight games, Chelsea are treading close to danger in 15th place, and a mere five points from six games marks their worst start to a new term since the 1978-79 season, where they finished bottom of the pile and were relegated to the Second Division.

Before the start of last season, Fulham had failed to beat Chelsea in 21 successive contests, but the Cottagers broke that streak with a 2-1 triumph at home before coming away from Stamford Bridge with a point to their name from a 0-0 draw; a similar story to the latter could be on the cards here, as all three meetings between the local rivals to take place on a Monday have ended all square.

Fulham Premier League form:

Fulham form (all competitions):

Chelsea Premier League form:

Chelsea form (all competitions):

We say: Fulham 1-1 Chelsea
With suspensions and injuries continuing to pile up, Premier League victories may remain scarce for Pochettino’s depleted Chelsea squad, who tried and failed on two occasions to get the better of the Cottagers last season.

Fulham fans would be wise not to read too much into clean sheets against Luton and Palace, especially with Chelsea still managing to carve out plenty of chances before wastefulness lets them down, and a stalemate seems the most likely outcome on Monday.

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