Fulham v Chelsea, Premier League, August 23, 2009
The West London derby completes Sunday’s Premier League action, with Fulham looking to get one over on pace-setters Chelsea who are two from two at this early stage of the season.
Although 100 percenters, the Blues have not managed to win easily so far this season. (Chelsea are 8/11 to keep a clean sheet.) Victories in the Community Shield, at home to Hull, and then away at Sunderland have all had one thing in common - on each occasion the Pensioners have had to come from behind after conceding the first goal of the game.
The Cottagers’ scoring prowess, which has seen them chalk up 10 goals in their opening four games of the new year, took a hit this week though as record signing Andrew Johnson injured his shoulder in the Europa League qualifier with Amkar Perm. Johnson is expected to be out of action for several weeks, which should leave Diomansy Kamara (7/2 to score) and Bobby Zamora (7/2 to score) to lead the line for the hosts.
On the plus side, Roy Hogson will hope to welcome back long term injury victim Simon Davies in midfield, while new signings Damien Duff (6/1 to score) and Jonathan Greening could well be unveiled after moving to London this week from Newcastle and West Brom, respectively. With Clint Dempsey (12/1 to score first), Danny Murphy and Zoltan Gera all alternative options in the middle of the park, Fulham look to have several creative options which can cause Chelsea problems.
Elsewhere, Hodgson will have some touch-and-go decisions with Dickson Etuhu and Erik Nevland looking to get the nod for inclusion in the matchday squad.
Chelsea arrive at their nearest top-flight neighbours will a slew of injury concerns of their own. New signing Yuri Zhirkov is sidelined with a knee injury while Juliano Belletti (Achilles) and defender Alex (groin) are also set to miss out for Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Also missing will be Joe Cole (knee) and Paulo Ferreira (knee) who are both set to return to training next week.
As standard Didier Drogba (4/1 to score first) and Nicolas Anelka (9/2 to score first) will lead the line for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, while all eyes will continue to assess to so-called “diamond formation” which the Italian has introduced since arriving from AC Milan in the summer.
So far Ancelotti, who has recently been labelled the new Tinkerman, has erratically been chopping and changing his midfield line-up, making predicting the midfield-four a slightly more difficult task than usual. According to those in the know, after impressing at the Stadium of Light, Deco (5/1 to score) will be positioned at the top of the diamond. As a result, Frank Lampard (6/4 to score), who has been ineffective in “the hole” so far this season, is set to drop back a little further in midfield as he is more accustomed to do.
History is heavily in Chelsea’s favour, Fulham having won just one of their 16 previous Premier League meetings with their local rivals. Yet, after finishing seventh last season Fulham are no easy pushovers, and arguably a draw is the most likely result.
101predicts: Fulham 1 - Chelsea 1 (11/2)
Full match odds here.