It seems like every Chelsea defeat results in a (not-so) minor existential crisis, but even if those are overblown a bit, the pressure is starting to slowly increase on Mauricio Pochettino — to provide not only results, but at least the expected improvement in our play. As we’ve said many times over the past year and a half, we can only trust the process if that process produces something that we can trust. Faith alone is not enough, certainly not anymore.
Not that it has anything to do with anything — other than my own mood and mindset — but a week that’s seen monumental coaching exits on the American-football scene in the USA (including three absolute legends of the game in Bill Belichick, Nick Saban, and Pete Carroll) is perhaps the universe’s reminder that you’re only as good as your last result in any professional sport and loyalties are ... malleable (cc: Kalen DeBoer).
In any case, calling a game must-win with five wins in our last seven feels a bit too strong ... but it also feels like a must-win. There’s enough drama everywhere else.
Date / Time: Saturday, January 13, 2024, 12.30 GMT; 7:30am EST; 6pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Anthony Taylor (on pitch); Michael Salisbury (VAR)
On TV: TNT Sports 1 (UK); USA, Universo (USA); Star Sports 3 (India); SuperSport Premier League, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: discovery+ (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: The good news is that Ben Chilwell and Benoît Badiashile are set to return to the matchday squad (bench, probably) and Carney Chukwuemeka is very close as well. The bad news is that Christopher Nkunku’s hip injury has apparently befuddled our medical team, which may not be saying much, but does mean that Nkunku remains out. The unchanged news is that Reece James, Roméo Lavia, Wesley Fofana, Marc Cucurella, Lesley Ugochukwu, and Robert Sánchez are also out. (And Nicolas Jackson’s at the AfCon and Ian Maatsen’s in Dortmund now.)
Chelsea may have lost five of our last six away from home, but we’ve won five in a row at the Bridge in all competitions and have only lost once since late September. It’s not quite a fortress, but we may not be blown down by every other random bad wolf anymore.
Fulham team news: One of the few wins we have managed to get away from home was at Craven Cottage back in early October. Fulham, who currently are four points below us in 13th, have won five (including against Arsenal), lost seven, and drawn one since, but they’ve not tasted victory on their travels in nine straight Premier League matches. Like Chelsea, they have also reached the semifinals of the League Cup, and like Chelsea, have lost the away leg by one goal. Unlike Chelsea, they lost to the Premier League leaders instead of some random midtable Championship team.
Fulham’s lone tally in that Liverpool game was by none other than Willian, who at 35 continues to be an effective player at this level and is their joint-top goalscorer with five in all competitions — Fulham aren’t exactly a goal-scoring machine. That won’t be helped by the absence of Alex Iwobi either, who’s away at the Africa Cup of Nations, along with center back Calvin Bassey and backup full back Fodé Ballo-Touré. Adama Traoré is the only injury of note.
Previously: Mykhailo Mudryk and Armando Broja scored inside of two minutes of each other in the aforementioned 2-0 win. Fulham have not won a top-flight game at Stamford Bridge since 1964.