At the start of winter, Chelsea, smarting from a 3-1 defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane, our first of the season, hosted friendly neighbors Fulham, already teetering on the edge of Premier League survival. That 2-0 win for Chelsea, against ex-Chelsea Claudio Ranieri in his second match in charge, certainly did not predict the struggles that would follow.
Now, at the start of spring, Chelsea, buoyed by a 2-0 win against Spurs at Stamford Bridge, seemingly our first of the year — actually the 3rd in the 7 league games of 2019, and just the 8th in the last 16 — travel a couple miles down the road to Fulham, who need a miracle to even come close to surviving for next season. Now we’re hoping that a win for Chelsea, against ex-Chelsea Scott Parker in his first match in charge, will help stop the same struggles we did not foresee three months ago — sure, Chelsea’s early results masked some underlying issues, but few would’ve predicted embarrassments such as the 4-0 disaster at Bournemouth or the 6-0 schooling by Manchester City.
Drama on and off the pitch have made Chelsea stronger, claims the manager and the players. Let’s see if that’s true.
Date / Time: Sunday, March 3, 2019, 14:05 GMT; 9:05am EST; 7:35pm IST
Venue: Craven Cottage, London, England
Referee: Graham Scott — third Chelsea match for the new name, but just the first time in the league. Scott oversaw our FA Cup win over Norwich City in the third round replay last season, booking three players for diving (Pedro, Willian, Morata) and sending two of three off as well for subsequent infringements (Pedro for a professional foul and Morata for arguing), as well as the win over Bolton Wanderers in the third round of the 2014-15 League Cup, which featured zero cards.
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Fulham team news: Now on their third manager of the season — former Chelsea player Scott Parker replacing former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri who replaced former Chelsea player Slaviša Jokanović (incidentally, both Jokanović and Parker played for Ranieri at Chelsea!) — Fulham continue to flounder, mired deep in the relegation zone, and are surely heading straight back down to the Championship.
Former Chelsea player and second-leading goalscorer André Schürrle is out with a viral infection (he’s still a bit sickly, ain’t he?), while goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli and defender Alfie Mawson are injured.
Laser Sharkovic Lazar Marković now player here, too? They may be decent in attack (Mitrović certainly knows where the goal is while Ryan Sessegnon continues to be a highly promising young winger) but they have conceded more goals than any other team in any of the top two divisions — only Rochdale (League One) and Notts County (League Two) have conceded more, and they’ve played seven more games, too! Fulham are the proud owners of the worst goal difference in all of professional football in England at (-37).
Fulham have lost 4 in a row and have just 4 wins for the entire Premier League season (and yet they are still not as bad as Huddersfield Town!).
View from the enemy: Cottagers Confidential
Chelsea team news: Sarri & Co are looking to put three months of aggressive inconsistency and mediocrity behind us and finish the season strong. Out of the FA Cup and having lost in the League Cup final, Chelsea can concentrate on finishing in the top four and/or winning the Europa League to get back into the Champions League next season.
There are no major injury or selection concerns, though some, like Eden Hazard, are starting to feel their legs a bit more lately after the grueling winter schedule. Kepa Arrizabalaga could be back between the sticks, or Sarri might wait until Thursday’s Round of 16 first leg in the Europa League against Dynamo Kiev to reintroduce the “mutineer”.
Chelsea have kept three clean sheets in a row, which is a solid base to build from, but the emergence of a consistent goalscorer would certainly be beneficial.
Previously: That was fun on Wednesday, wasn’t it?