It's not be the most actively hostile local rivalry but when Fulham welcome Chelsea to Craven Cottage on Saturday they'll do so knowing they can cause all sorts of difficulties for manager Frank Lampard if his expensively assembled side cannot end their recent league struggles.
Chelsea's last five Premier League games have brought just four points, sending the Blues from title contention to ninth in the table heading into this weekend's games. Indeed even Fulham have taken more points with five in their last five, all of which have been drawn. The side who looked so out of their depth early in the season are starting to find a renewed solidity. Here's how you can watch the game and everything you need to know:
- Date: Saturday, Jan. 16
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- Location: Craven Cottage -- London, United Kingdom
- TV: NBC
- Live stream: fuboTV (try for free)
- Odds: Fulham +500; Draw +320; Chelsea -182 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
Fulham: An impressively energetic and diligent display at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in midweek earned Fulham another point that could be crucial in the fight against survival and was all the more impressive coming as it did in their first league game since Boxing Day, cases of COVID-19 having forced two games to be postponed.
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Having conceded 10 goals in their first three games Scott Parker's side have tightened up significantly since with just 14 against them in their last 13 and of late they are proving to be an almighty challenge to break down. "I thought the quality we have shown in the last few games breeds a lot of confidence to go unbeaten in this division for a team like us for a sustained period of time against very good opposition shows how far we've came," said Parker.
Chelsea: Having struggled greatly with creativity and incision during recent weeks Frank Lampard will be delighted to welcome back Reece James from injury and see him strike up a burgeoning partnership with Hakim Ziyech that looked destined to give opposing defenders nightmares throughout this season. Both cross the ball with variety aplenty and James' overlapping runs down the right free Ziyech to dart infield where he can combine with Mason Mount or Kai Havertz.
Of the six games Chelsea were able to utilise Ziyech and James five resulted in victories with the only team who stopped the Blues from scoring more than two goals being a Tottenham side who arguably played for the 0-0 draw they ended up settling for. With only one of the last six league games having seen his players score more than once, Lampard will be hoping his improved right flank can add some dynamism to his side's attack.
Fulham are a tough nut to crack and Chelsea have not been in the habit of getting past such teams of late. This may yet be another stalemate that suits the Cottagers' purposes rather nicely. PICK: Draw (+320)