It feels like the start of a brand new season, even if quite clearly it’s far from one. We’re still in midtable, still a fair distance from even getting involved in a top-four fight, and with plenty of questions and concerns hanging over the operation in general.
But after a two-week mini-break and a January spending spree that would’ve been ridiculous for a summer transfer window, let alone a mid-winter one, there’s far more buzz and excitement around than our league position and recent results would or should warrant. Add in the fact that all of football are moaning about us once again — already got one rule change out of UEFA! — and it does feel like a bit of the “old” Chelsea. Or in the quiet words of the Jason Cundy, “I don’t care what they think”.
Of course, now it’s up to the players (new and old) and the coaches (will Potter be Boehly’s Ranieri or Mourinho when all’s said and done?) to get the results we expect — and those expectations will have only increased. You can buy players, but you still have to earn the results. Obviously these things don’t happen overnight, except when they do. But either way, that part begins now, anew.
We lost to Fulham just a few weeks ago, and the worst part of it was that few were truly shocked by that rare result. Time to make waves on the pitch, not just off of it.
Date / Time: Friday, February 3, 2023, 20.00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Stuart Attwell (on pitch); Michael Salisbury (VAR)
Forecast: Cool and a light breeze of renewed optimism
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); USA, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: Of the eight January signings, six will be available, including last-minute breaker of chains, Enzo Fernández. Malo Gusto is seeing out the rest of the season with Lyon while Andrey Santos is currently starring with Brazil at the CONMEBOL U20 Championship. Three of the six have already made their debuts (Badiashile, still-suspended João Félix, and Mudryk) but now that squads are settled for the rest of the season, the others available shouldn’t be too far behind either.
In equally fantastic news, three Three Lions should be available at long last, including Reece James, Ben Chilwell, and Raheem Sterling — though they may not (should not?) start right away. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also ready for action once again as is Hakim Ziyech after his brief and highly frustrating visit to the PSG front office. Presumably Mateo Kovačić is also over his knock since his name was not mentioned in the pre-match press conference. (UPDATE: he was mentioned, and he is out; drats!)
Our injury list does remain considerable, but certainly more manageable now. Wesley Fofana is close and Denis Zakaria shouldn’t be too far behind. Édouard Mendy’s on an unknown timeline recovering from his finger surgery, but Christian Pulisic and N’Golo Kanté’s are on track for March.
Fulham team news: Since we last saw them, Fulham lost 1-0 to Newcastle and lost 1-0 to Spurs in the league, and drew 1-1 against Sunderland in the FA Cup. Not exactly an awe-inspiring run, though both of those teams are above us in the table and Cup games can always surprise.
Fulham were quite busy on Deadline Day as well, converting Shane Duffy’s loan to a transfer from Brighton, acquiring midfielder Saša Lukić from Torino, and adding right back Cédric Soares on loan from Arsenal. Meanwhile, former Chelsea prospect Nathaniel Chalobah transferred to West Brom while former Spurs prospect Josh Onomah left by mutual consent to Preston North End.
Unlike in our previous meeting, Aleksandar Mitrović is not suspended. He scored only one goal in January and has just that one in his last five appearances, so you know he’s due.
View from the enemy: Cottagers Confidential
Previously: Just play the Song for Enzo on repeat.