Chelsea's hectic schedule continues with a match against Fulham on Monday. We've barely had time to savour our weird home win against Wigan Athletic, and now we're being thrown into the fray once more with a trip to Craven Cottage. Like Wigan, this is a team that featured heavily in our annoying run of draws during December, and tomorrow would be a great opportunity to get some revenge. We're still three points back of fourth (and five of third) and this winning streak really has to continue if we're going to have any real hope of ending up in the Champions League spots.
Date/Time: 8:00 PM BST (3:00 PM EDT), Monday April 9th.
Venue: Craven Cottage, London.
Television: ESPN 2 (USA), Sky Sports 1 (UK)
Watch online: ESPN 3 (USA)
Fulham may have won 3-0 at the Reebok Stadium last time out but they lost Costa Rican forward Bryan Ruiz in the process - Ruiz has a broken foot and probably won't be playing again this year. On top of that blow, Martin Jol's side has several doubts. Danny Murphy, Pavel Pogrebniak and Orlando Sa could all find themselves missing out on Monday, just two days after their previous fixture.
Chelsea, meanwhile, face late fitness tests on four key starters. John Terry might insist that he can play through two cracked ribs but the Blues' medical staff is more skeptical, and they could continue to hold the defender out of action for this one. There were more minor issues for Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Ramires with an ankle problem, a thigh problem and illness respectively, and it remains unclear whether or not they'll be fit to feature on Monday. I recognise that that's not so much 'news' as 'stays the sames', but sorry. It's all I've got.
Martin Jol really likes attacking. And so he should - he has a very potent attacking force, especially now that Clint Dempsey has decided to add scoring crazy amount of goals to his usual game of elbowing all-comers in the face. The loss of Bryan Ruiz will hurt, but Fulham are still more than capable of doing bad things to a Chelsea defence that probably won't feature John Terry or Ashley Cole. John Obi Mikel will be required in the midfield to control the space between defence and midfield.
In fact, it might be best to play with a 4-1-2-3 to match Fulham's expected 4-4-1-1. Mikel deep and two advanced midfielders (probably Frank Lampard and Ramires) would occupy and presumably control the centre, and we could give Juan Mata a rest by using Salomon Kalou on the left and Daniel Sturridge on the right. With Didier Drogba having played two days ago, Fernando Torres is the likely starter.
The defence will be interesting, because there aren't many options if neither Ashley Cole nor John Terry are fit. Jose Bosingwa can theoretically play right back, although I can't really see why you'd want him to - if it were up to me I'd leave Branislav Ivanovic there. If Bosingwa does end up playing I'd probably try to fit Ramires on the right and put Michael Essien in the middle despite his poor performance on Saturday.
That all adds up to the following lineup:
Chelsea (4-3-3): Petr Cech; Ryan Bertrand, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic; John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, Ramires; Salomon Kalou, Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge.
However, since Roberto di Matteo is yet to play around with starting in any shape but a 4-2-3-1, so fielding a 4-3-3 just for this match doesn't seem that likely. If a double pivot is used, Mikel should be involved, probably alongside Meireles, and Lampard can start in the hole. It's not ideal, but it'll do.
We have to win this game. We have to win all of our games. Fun.