Who: Fulham vs. Chelsea
What: English Premier League Week 28
Where: Craven Cottage, London, England, United Kingdom
When: Saturday March 1, 2014
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast London
Time: 3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Live Extra (U.S.)
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM FC, SIRI 94 (Internet 94), TalkSport Radio
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
3-Way Odds: Fulham +750, Chelsea -250, Draw +350
Total: Over 2½ -145, Under 2½ +120
Decimal Odds: Fulham 8.50, Chelsea 1.40, Draw 4.50
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.69, Under 2½ 2.20
Fractional Odds: Fulham 15/2, Chelsea 2/5, Draw 7/2
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 20/29, Under 2½ 6/5
Alternate Odds: Chelsea -1 -150, Fulham +1 +125
Over 3½ +180, Under 3½ -220
First Half: Chelsea -110, Fulham +650, Draw +175
Over 1 -150, Under 1 +115
Odds to Win Premier League: Chelsea 11/8 (Manchester City 5/4)
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
3-Way Odds: Fulham +750, Chelsea -250, Draw +350
Total: Over 2½ -140, Under 2½ +120
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada USA)
Maybe they better put the Michael Jackson statue back up.
Since removing the statue of The King off Pop from Craven Cottage on September 25 of last year, Fulham has proceeded to lose 15 of its last 22 English Premier League home games, and with first-place Chelsea coming over for a derby on Saturday, that number will probably get worse.
At a glance, a game between a 20th- and a first-placed team in any league seems like a sure blowout, but this is a London derby, and Fulham (6-2-18) is in a situation where it can kiss top-flight play goodbye unless it starts winning. But with just three wins at Craven Cottage (3-1-9 home) in 13 games so far, the Cottagers haven’t exactly created a home-pitch advantage.
And if it does end up getting relegated, Fulham’s defense will surely be to blame. With a league-high 59 goals allowed and an average of more than two every home game, the Whites (-32 goal differential) just can’t stop opponents from scoring.
So can new manager Felix Magath now come in and save the day at Craven Cottage? Time will tell, but a quick look at the Cottagers' remaining schedule reveals that after this match with Chelsea, Manchester City (March 22) and Tottenham Hotspur (April 19) look like the only real “tough games,” so Steve Sidwell (six goals) and his teammates should have some hope.
But the Cottagers cannot have results like their last one, which saw them blow a 1-0 lead in injury time to West Bromwich Albion last weekend in Magath’s first game as manager and settle for a draw and one point instead of the three points it looked like they had.
For current league leaders Chelsea (18-6-3), winning road games against lesser opponents like its Noiseless Neighbor, Fulham, from here on in is imperative. If the Blues can’t find a way to do so, Manchester City or Liverpool or Arsenal will probably be more than happy to sop up the Premier League title by doing just that—winning the games on the road against the rats that they’re supposed to.
Chelsea heads into this contest off a mid-week UEFA Champions League Round of 16 game against Galatasaray in Istanbul in which the home team earned a 1-1 draw. A second-half goal from defender Aurelien Chedjou levelled things after Fernando Torres put the visitors in front with an early first half goal at the Turk Telekom Arena.
The Europa League champion Blues and vice captain Frank Lampard will be looking to extend their 11-game unbeaten mark in the Premier League (9-2-0) against the Cottagers on Saturday, and only Liverpool’s form can compare with Chelsea’s over the last six matches (both 4-2-0, 14 points).
And after being cup-tied for the Galatasaray match, the Blues and manager Jose Mourinho will have both Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah at his disposal, although Salah has seen minimal playing time since coming over from FC Basel over the January transfer window. And it may be too early to proclaim it, but like John Terry, Chelsea seems to play much better with the fearsome Matic in the starting XI.
The last three times these two clubs have met, Fulham has gone scoreless. And against the EPL’s strongest defense (21 goals allowed) and goalkeeper (Petr Cech), the anemic Cottagers will really be up against it, so let’s just say this handicap begins with the simple premise: “Can Fulham score?”
That remains to be seen. And luckily for us, NBC Sports Network has decided to make this the nationally (U.S.) broadcasted game in the 10 a.m./7 a.m. PT time slot. “Luckily” that is until the game devolves into the ugly mess of a soccer match it is and you fall back to sleep at halftime from utter boredom and a 70-30 percent possession discrepancy.
The Blues have dominated this local SW6 zip code series of late, going 6-4-0 over the last 10 meetings (15-4 goals) and Chelsea won this fixture last season by a score of 3-0 and won this season’s first meeting at Stamford Bridge, 2-0. So even calling any analysis of this a handicap is simply lofty semantics as this is really a matter of trying to predict the final score.
With Fulham losing 13 of its last 16 games at Craven Cottage and Chelsea visualizing a title in its head and still sour after giving up 1-0 leads to Galatasaray and at West Brom two weeks ago and settling for draws, expect The Special One to emphasize the importance of getting that precious second goal although the Blues strikers still can’t be counted on for scoring...for a third straight year now, isn’t it?
But it’s incredibly hard to feel sorry for a team that is perceived to be able to buy who it wants when it wants—this is not true—after simply letting legend Didier Drogba go, selling Daniel Sturridge (18 goals) to Liverpool and loaning out Romelu Lukaku (nine goals) to Everton over the past two years.
Maybe not “incredibly hard”—more like nearly impossible.
One thing is certain here: Chelsea’s defense will again do its job in what may be the last game for the Blues against the Cottagers for some time, but the big question as to whether this storied club’s offense will ever wake up and become consistent again still remains.
Even if it does in this match, the questions will remain, as scoring goals against the team in the league with the weakest defense doesn’t really prove that much in the long run. Chelsea needs to get up early and put this one away in the first 60 minutes for its own fragile collective head.
And thanks to some breakout play by new attacking midfielder Willian and the aforementioned Matic, the Blues should be able to do just that, then set their sights on another London derby a week later (March 8) when Tottenham takes the bus over to Stamford Bridge for what should really be an interesting and entertaining game.
Prediction: Fulham 0 Chelsea 2
Bets: Chelsea -250, Chelsea -1 -150
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