With only 5 match days to go, the Premier League is now into the penultimate stage of the season and there is a whole lot to play for. Chelsea, who are far from sealing a place in the Top 4, have Fulham next on Saturday evening, who on the other hand are fighting for their lives in the relegation zone. The last time the two faced each other, it was quite a cagey affair, however, a Mason Mount strike got Chelsea all the 3 points, but things might be even more difficult this time around with Fulham tightening up at the back.
Will Tuchel’s men stutter again against a ‘lesser opposition’?
Thomas Tuchel’s reign at Chelsea has been largely successful and the German has brought Chelsea right into the thick of things, not just in the Premier League but also in the Champions League and the FA Cup. Even the most optimistic of fans could not have predicted this, however, Tuchel has suffered to a certain extent in one area.
Chelsea, albeit in unbelievable form, have had more than issue beating teams that sit back and soak the pressure against them. The art of opening up a sitting defence is one that Tuchel mastered at PSG, yet due to lack of time and potent goal-scorers, it hasn’t quite happened for him at Chelsea yet.
They have suffered against the likes of Leeds United, Brighton, West Brom, Sheffield United, and Newcastle United this season as they have either drawn or won only by a margin of a single goal, besides the West Brom debacle, although Chelsea did play with 10 men for more than an hour in that game. Timo Werner finally scored last weekend against West Ham, however, the forward followed that up with yet another incredible miss.
Although Chelsea won the game last weekend, Werner missed an important chance in midweek against Real Madrid which could prove to be very costly for the Blues and it is only a question of how many more chances is Tuchel going to provide the German forward with.
In terms of injuries, Mateo Kovacic is still out with injury, however, the Croat did train on Friday with the Blues but is a doubt for the Madrid game as well due to lack of match fitness and minor setbacks. Apart from Kovacic, Antonio Rudiger will also be unavailable for selection for the game on Saturday as the German suffered a knock in the dying embers in the game against Madrid in midweek.
With a hectic schedule ahead, Billy Gilmour could come into the base of midfield on Saturday evening as Chelsea have Real Madrid again in midweek which will be followed by Manchester City next weekend. With Liverpool and West Ham playing on Sunday and Monday respectively, Chelsea can take a 6 point lead with a win on Saturday and Tuchel will surely inform his players of the same.
Could Scott Parker save Fulham from relegation and do the unthinkable?
7 points from safety, Fulham have a massive job in the next 5 games and if they are to do something about it, Saturday would be a good start as they face West London rivals in Chelsea.
Very rare does a Premier League team get the opportunity to hit 2 birds with one stone, yet Fulham, with their horrendous position in the table, have the opportunity on the weekend. If Fulham plays their cards right against Chelsea and come away with 3 points, they could both, continue their fight to avoid relegation while also ruin Chelsea’s opportunities to finish in the Top 4 this season.
This, however, is easier said than done. Fulham are without a win in 8 while goals have been hard to come by for the Cottagers this season as they been the 2nd lowest scoring side in the division this season, only behind Sheffield United. Players like Ademola Lookman and Bobby Cordova-Reid have not lived up to their early season form and hype as Fulham’s last goal from open play was Alexsandar Mitrovic’s header against Aston Villa at the start of April.
Fulham’s defence, on the other hand, have been reliable as they are the 3rd best defence in the bottom 10 of the Premier League while players like Joachim Anderson and Tosin Adarabioyo have looked competent young heads in the backline. However, keeping Chelsea out will take a lot of doing, something Fulham right-back, Ola Aina, knows very well after spending his entire youth career with the Blues.
On the injury front, Fulham recently announced that Terence Kongolo will be out for the rest of the season, however, besides the defender, Fulham have no other recent injuries since their last matchday which was two weeks ago on the 18th of April.
Scott Parker needs a miracle to save Fulham this season and Saturday will certainly be a good place to start, and against rivals Chelsea, it would be two for Fulham.
Chelsea: Edouard Mendy- Cesar Azpilicueta; Andreas Christensen; Thiago Silva- Reece James; Ben Chilwell; N’Golo Kante; Billy Gilmour- Mason Mount; Hakim Ziyech; Kai Havertz.
Fulham : Alphonse Areola-Joachim Anderson; Antonee Robinson ; Tosin Adarabioyo; Ola Aina; Mario Leimina; Bobby De Cordova-Reid; Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa; Ademola Lookman- Ivan Cavaleiro; Josh Maja.