Chelsea Vs. Fulham: Preview

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Frank Lampard of Chelsea and Moussa Dembele of Fulham tussle for the ball during the Carling Cup Third Round match between Chelsea and Fulham at Stamford Bridge on September 21, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Just in case you didn't get your fill of London derbies when the Blues travelled to White Hart Lane on Thursday, here's another. It's Chelsea vs. Fulham at Stamford Bridge, so we get to welcome American Hero/Noted Purveyor of Violent Elbows Clint Dempsey to our lovely home. Hopefully he's all elbowed out after clobbering Phil Jones this week.

Anyway, Clint Dempsey! is attached to a club, and it's one we've already faced this year in the Carling Cup. We drew that match 0-0 despite being down an Alex for 75 minutes, and eventually won the thing on penalties. What can we take out of that match? Nothing, because the Carling Cup is for reserve teams. Lets move on.

While Chelsea are coming off a pretty good 1-1 draw away to Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham have just been pasted 5-0 by Manchester United, a match that even saw Dimitar Berbatov score. It was a bit of a shock that they were beaten so badly by the champions at Craven Cottage considering that they've historically been one of United's bogey teams. Fulham have been up and down all season, and although they've rarely been convincing there's a good chance that they could come out firing and give us some problems.

Chelsea will be without the services of Ramires, who is suspended following his yellow card against Tottenham, and David Luiz's presence is in some doubt as he recovers from a knee injury. I'm not entirely sure what's going on with Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel - I haven't heard any injury updates beyond Andre Villas-Boas's initial 'it's not that bad' comment - so we should probably assume they're out.

The big question is of course whether Fernando Torres should be selected to start up front. He probably should, but that's been true of a number of games recently and he's started exactly none of them, so don't count on seeing #9 in the lineup, no matter how disappointing Didier Drogba has looked. With Ramires and Mikel out, Oriol Romeu is an obvious starter and Frank Lampard and Raul Meireles should be expected in front of him. There's probably an argument for deploying Josh McEachran here considering how poor both Lampard and Meireles have been of late, but that's obviously not going to happen either.

If David Luiz is out, we're probably going to see the back line that we ended the Spurs game with, so let's really really hope that he's healthy. I don't want to see Jose Bosingwa at centre half ever again. Here's the projected lineup:

Chelsea (4-3-3): Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, John Terry, David Luiz, Jose Bosingwa; Oriol Romeu, Frank Lampard, Raul Meireles; Juan Mata, Didier Drogba, Daniel Sturridge.

Fulham do possess some good players - Moussa Dembele, to name one, has been turning some heads - but realistically they can't expect much here. As long as Chelsea can control the centre of the pitch, they'll be fine, which means that the performance will probably come down to Lampard and Meireles snapping out of their funks. It shouldn't be too bad.

Join us here on Monday at 1:00 PM GMT (8:00 AM EST) for some game thread fun, and send in your score/lineup predictions in the comments. Make sure you read CareFree Chronicles' scouting report of the Fulham-Bolton matchas well!

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