Chelsea v Fulham Preview, Team News, Latest Odds

Chelsea take on near neighbours Fulham in today’s Premiership clash at Stamford Bridge facing a defensive crisis whilst thousands fans of both clubs are likely to struggle to get to Stamford Bridge in time for the early kick off, due to restricted Boxing Day travel services, an expected train drivers strike on parts of the tube system and the closure of the Hammersmith Flyover for urgent repairs.

It is now some 32 years since Fulham last won at the Bridge – back in October 1979 in fact and that 2-0 win came in the ‘old’ second division One has to look back to March 1964 for their last win in the League’s top division.

Chelsea though are facing a defensive injury crisis with no recognised central defender to partner John Terry against the Cottagers since Branislav Ivanovic joined David Luiz on the injured list. Whilst there have been some local calls for the reinstatement of ‘out in the cold’ Brazilian defender Alex to the team, Manager Andre Villas-Boas remains unimpressed.

He is likely to ask Jose Bosingwa to man the defence instead,whilst the club continue to have talks with Bolton Wanderers regarding a probable transfer of England central defender, Gary Cahill in the January transfer market.

Villas-Boas said: “Alex will not play for us because we accepted a transfer request in anticipation of the market – and we are not stupid people.

“We do not accept a transfer request and put people training apart from the rest of the squad and then dial 999 and ask for help.

“At the moment we will stick to our principles and our values for the decision we felt was good for the club.

“The request was accepted so we have to let the market open and then we have to look to adapt ourselves if the situation as it is continues to arise.”

Does he not regret banning Alex along with Nicolas Anelka from even training with the team squad?

“We have to find the necessary adaptations to go through a period like this,” added Villas-Boas.

“That was the decision we felt sensible. We felt confident at that time and we will stick to it.

“He is not training with the with the first team because we went through that period of bad results and we wanted everybody on the same tune.

“That was the same tune regarding training, and the same tune in terms of commitment, concentration, objectives and immediate club objectives. It was not a thing to penalise anybody. It was to fine-tune what we have.

“It’s a normal situation. Everybody has ambition. He is an extremely professional player and personality. I think he has his personal ambitions and that’s why we accepted it.”

Fulham meantime will be anxious to put behind them last week’s 0-5 home drubbing against Manchester United and have no new injury worries with former Chelsea player Steve Sidwell having recovered from a recent hernia operation. It is however unlikely that he will start today.

Ireland’s Damien Duff should he play a part in this game will celebrate his 400th League appearance. With a heavy New Year programme ahead, Fulham will also be anxious not to have any new bookings today since Sidwell , Brede Hangeland, Chris Baird, Moussa Dembele and Danny Murphy are all but one booking away from a ban.

Another concern for this visitors is that Jol’s side have scored the fewest away goals in the Premier League in this campaign todate – four goals in eight games is not a record that is likely to instil fear into the heart of a weakened Chelsea defence. Indeed they have won but one of their last nine Boxing Day fixtures which includes four defeats and four drawn games.

Derby matches are always hard fought battles for local ‘bragging rights’ and today’s is no exception. In the final analysis though it is difficult to envisage Fulham improving upon that dismal record at the Bridge.

Prediction: Chelsea 3 Fulham 1
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