Chelsea vs. Fulham

After a hectic ending to the January transfer window for Chelsea, they welcome Fulham to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Friday night.

The Blues spent in excess of £300 million during the month, but need a mammoth turnaround to make the top four this season.

Match preview

Chelsea's Mykhaylo Mudryk reacts on January 21, 2023

After the high-profile signings of Joao Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk earlier in January, Chelsea blew those transfers out of the water with a record-breaking fee to bring World Cup Golden Boy Enzo Fernandez to the Bridge on deadline day.

The £106.8m spent on the Argentine means it is an all-time English record transfer fee, and having played five games for Benfica post-World Cup, Fernandez will be ready to make an immediate impact in the side.

With that signing taking their spending for the season to over £600 million, the Chelsea hierarchy are certainly putting a lot of faith in Graham Potter to turn their fortunes around after a woeful season on the league front especially.

This fixture will be a rematch from the thrilling encounter at Craven Cottage three weeks ago, which saw Fulham win 2-1 as Felix was sent off on debut for Chelsea.

That result left Potter in big trouble as it meant they had gone on a run of just one win in 11 domestic matches.

A win over Crystal Palace and a goalless draw at Anfield followed to ease the pressure on the manager, but this is yet another must win match for a club in the media spotlight given their recent spending, who are inexplicably down in 10th.

Even though only three sides have conceded fewer goals, Chelsea’s problems lie mainly in attack, and not signing an elite-level, out-and-out striker, despite the astronomical figures they have paid out, could backfire.

Kai Havertz, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic are among a long list of Chelsea attacking options who have performed below expectations this season, as that quintet of players have notched just 14 goals between them in the league.

The red card to Felix was an extraordinary welcome for him to the Premier League, but the brief glimpses seen of the Portuguese international, and that of Mudryk at Anfield, suggests that the duo could make the difference for Chelsea in the second half of the season.

They very often have the edge over Fulham in this West London derby at Stamford Bridge too, as Fulham’s only wins here came in 1964 and 1979, neither of which were in the top flight.

Since beating Chelsea in the reverse fixture, Fulham have lost both league matches and been forced into an FA Cup replay by lower-league opposition.

Willian celebrates scoring for Fulham against Chelsea on January 12, 2023

However, it would be unfair to suggest they have played poorly, as they were very unlucky to lose at St. James’ Park as Aleksandar Mitrovic had his penalty ruled out for an unfortunate double kick, before Newcastle United netted a very late winner.

Another narrow defeat to Tottenham Hotspur saw them play slightly below their very high levels of recent weeks, but an Antonio Conte side can be difficult to break down.

Manager Marco Silva made a few changes for their cup tie versus Sunderland and produced a fantastic spectacle in which both sides could have won.

Having 22 shots on goal, 12 on target and 69% possession shows that despite failing to win the game, Fulham are still capable of dominating the play even with some fringe players in the side against an in-form Championship outfit.

If they can pull off a famous win here at Stamford Bridge, they would move into sixth before the rest of the league play.

It would also be the first time in the club’s history that they have completed a league double over Chelsea, and it would certainly have their fans dreaming of a first European adventure since 2011.

Team News

Chelsea's Joao Felix tackles Fulham's Kenny Tete on January 12, 2023

With the signing of Fernandez going through around the deadline on Tuesday night, he will be eligible to play here, but whether Potter will opt to throw him straight into the side is debatable.

Felix is still suspended after his red card in the reverse fixture, with this being the third and final game of that ban he has to serve.

After an exciting cameo against Liverpool, Mudryk could come into the side possibly to take the place of either Hakim Ziyech or Conor Gallagher, who both saw late transfers fall through on deadline day.

One player who did leave though was Jorginho, as the Italian midfielder joined London rivals and league leaders Arsenal, and with N’Golo Kante and Denis Zakaria both injured, Potter will hope to welcome back Mateo Kovacic for this one.

The Croatian midfielder missed the trip to Anfield with a calf problem, but the manager expects him to be fine to return to the side.

On the contrary, Fulham have virtually no injury worries coming into the game, with Neeskens Kebano the only current absentee.

Fulham were also busy on deadline day, as they were able to bring in Serbian international Sasa Lukic from Torino, who will link up with his compatriot Mitrovic in the squad.

Cedric Soares also came in on loan from Arsenal to offer more cover at right-back, with Kevin Mbabu seemingly not in Silva’s plans as back up.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Arrizabalaga; Chalobah, Thiago Silva, Badiashile; Azpilicueta, Kovacic, Hall, Cucurella; Mount, Mudryk, Havertz

Fulham possible starting lineup:
Leno; Tete, Diop, Ream, Robinson; Palhinha, Reed, Andreas Pereira; Decordova-Reid, Mitrovic, Willian

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