Chelsea arrive into the weekend with a three-point cushion over the chasing pack for the fourth and last Champions League place, with just five games left. By far the easiest of those, at least on paper, is this one against practically already relegated Fulham.
The other league games remaining on the schedule include Manchester City and Aston Villa away, as well as home games against Arsenal and Leicester City. If we play our cards right, that latter might even be a showdown for third place, but that’s assuming we collect the necessary points in the others, starting with this one.
Sandwiched between the two legs of our Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid, Tuchel has to find the right balance of focus, fitness, and rotation for this must-win.
Date / Time: Saturday, May 1, 2021, 17.30 BST; 12:30pm EDT; 10pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Kevin Friend (on pitch); Darren England (VAR)
Forecast: Springlike shower possible
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBC, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD2 (India); SuperSport Maximo 1, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live, Deportes Telemundo En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: The saga of Mateo Kovačić’s hamstring injury continues, and it may have even taken a turn for the worse, putting his participation in the second leg against Real Madrid in doubt as well. Meanwhile, Antonio Rüdiger is set for a maintenance day, having picked up a knock late on in the first leg, to ensure that he’s ready for the second.
Tuchel is expected to rotate and rotate heavily, especially seeing as how this is probably our last chance this season to do so. That may be inherently risky, but there are a lot games left to juggle in the remaining three weeks and change of this season, and at least one, hopefully two trophies on the line in addition to the top-four battle.
Fulham team news: While not mathematically relegated yet, it seems inevitable that Fulham will go straight back down to the Championship, joining West Brom and Sheffield United at the exit door. After a brief winter resugence, which saw them lose just 3 of 15 games (but also win just 2), Fulham have now lost four of five, though they did hold Arsenal to a 1-1 draw a couple weeks ago.
Fulham are the second lowest scoring team in the league with 25, but they do have more draws (12) than all but one team, Brighton, who held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw in our previous home match.
Tom Cairney, Terence Kongolo, and Marek Rodak are injured. Kenny Tete is in COVID protocol while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is ineligible as per standard loan terms. Chelsea Academy product Ola Aina remains a key player for them, able to slot in anywhere across the back line, right, left, and center.
Previously: One of those aforementioned three losses during their winter resurgence was to Chelsea, Mason Mount scoring the game’s only goal.