Tuesday saw a huge result for Chelsea in the race for a Champions League place next season. Arsenal hosted Everton, and the 2 sides played to a fairly uneventful 0-0 draw. That will leave Chelsea trailing Arsenal by 2 points when they take the field on Wednesday, but with a pair of games in hand over their North London foe. The draw leave Everton almost dead in the water, 2 points behind Chelsea and having played 2 additional games.
Chelsea also sit level on points with Tottenham, but have a game in hand and a significant advantage in goal differential over the other North London rival. It's hard to picture Spurs making up a 13 goal gap in just 6 remaining games, so finishing level on points with Tottenham will likely see Chelsea finish safely above them.
The club has the opportunity to start building a cushion on Wednesday, as they head across London to face Fulham and make up 1 of their games in hand. The last time the clubs met was Rafa's second game in charge, and Chelsea played relatively uninspired football on the way to a 0-0 draw.
While that result didn't go over particularly well the last time these 2 clubs met, I'd imagine anything but 3 points on Wednesday will go over much, much worse. Recent slips by both Arsenal and Tottenham have left the Blues with an absolutely golden opportunity, and now it's up to the club to simply reach out and take it. With all 3 contending clubs facing potentially tricky fixtures this weekend, nothing else will do.
Chelsea Team News
Rafa Benitez will have a close to full strength squad to choose from, and should be able to field a strong starting lineup for this one. He'll be without Oriol Romeu through long term injury, and both Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole will continue to be unavailable*. Marko Marin is also dealing with a minor thigh injury, although the German was able to train through the problem today.
*Both could potentially be fit for this weekend's match with Liverpool, although I'd assume only Cole would be likely to start that one.
Fulham Team News
Fulham will have several useful players missing, and will likely line up in their usual 4-4-1-1 formation. Steve Sidwell will be out due to a suspension, while Damien Duff, Mahamadou Diarra, and Ashkan Dejagah will all be out with injury.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech, Azpilicueta, Terry, Luiz, Bertrand, Mikel, Lampard, Hazard, Mata, Moses, Torres
Fulham (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer, Diether, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise, Emanuelson, Karagounis, Enoh, Richardson, Ruiz, Berbatov
Date/Time: Wednesday, April 17 at 20:00 BST
Venue: Craven Cottage, London, England - This unfortunately means some of the worst camera angles in the sport, as Craven Cottage, Loftus Road, and White Hart Lane just have awful angles for camera crews to work with
Television information: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Deportes (USA), ESPN (India), SuperSport 5 (Nigeria)
More listings can also be found here. Those of you looking to watch in the UK might be out of luck, as it doesn't appear to be televised. Those of you looking to (legally) stream the game in the United States will have to wait until Thursday, as Fox Soccer 2 Go continues their brilliant strategy of not streaming all of their games live. I already can't wait for NBC next season...
Referee: Mike Dean