Rafael Benítez’s rotation policy will continue as Chelsea bid to maintain their hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top four.
As derby games go, this is often relatively gentle affair and with Fulham comfortably placed, the visitors will expect an easy passage.
The last clash ended without goals, with Fulham frustrating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and Martin Jol would be delighted to take another point off the noisy neighbours.
Fulham’s Damien Duff will miss the clash with former club Chelsea through injury.
The 34-year-old was forced off 10 minutes into Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa with an adductor strain, which will also likely see him miss this weekend’s match against Arsenal.
Former Chelsea midfielder Steve Sidwell is suspended, while Ashkan Dejagah and Mahamadou Diarra are sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile, Chelsea captain John Terry and midfielder Frank Lampard are expected to return at Craven Cottage.
The experienced pair were unused in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester City at Wembley, but interim manager Rafael Benitez is poised to rotate his squad once more as Chelsea’s congested schedule continues with the west London derby.
Striker Fernando Torres could also start in a week which will end with Chelsea going to his former club Liverpool, but Ashley Cole, his fellow England defender Gary Cahill and long-term absentee Oriol Romeu remain out, while Marko Marin is doubtful.
The Europa League is now the only silverware that Chelsea can win this season, but it is the Champions League that occupies their focus.
Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat by Manchester City means that seven trophy chances have passed by for Chelsea this season.
Interim manager Rafa Benitez says his challenge is to keep the players’ minds on the battle to secure the top-four spot that would grant them a return to the Champions League they won last May.
“We have two games in the Premier League – the target for us – and then after we will start thinking about the Europa League,” said Benitez.
“The main one is Fulham on Wednesday. We know it will be tough, difficult, but still we have confidence we can win.”
The more modest aim for Fulham this season is to finish in the top half of the table. Craven Cottage hosts two London derbies this week, with Arsenal visiting on Saturday, and goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer believes there’s no danger of his team-mates coasting to the end of the season.
“We’ve got six games remaining and the target will be to try and get to that point where we are mathematically safe and then we’ll try and finish as high as possible in the table,” he said.
“There are points available and it’s good from a psychological point of view and it’s good for momentum for next season if we can prove to people that Fulham deserve to be in the top half of the table.”
Projected Lineups :
Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise
Karagounis, Enoh, Richardson, Emanuelson
Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz, Bertrand
Mata, Oscar, Hazard
Key Stats :
- Fulham’s only win over Chelsea in the last 32 league and cup meetings spanning more than 33 years was 1-0 at Craven Cottage in March 2006, when Luis Boa Morte scored the only goal.
- The last four league meetings between the sides have been drawn.
- This is the 81st meeting between the clubs; Chelsea lead by 42 wins to Fulham’s 11, with 27 draws.
- Fulham have only lost one of their last seven league matches (W3, D3, L1).
- They would be fifth if matches ended at half-time.
- Martin Jol’s side have only recouped five points (all draws) from losing positions this season – the worst record in the division.
- They have benefited from five own goals this season, a league-high with Manchester United.
- Dimitar Berbatov has scored five goals in his last six Premier League appearances. Ten of his 13 goals for Fulham have come before half-time.
- Chelsea have only earned one point from their previous four away matches, losing the last three. They have not lost four successive away games in the Premier League since a five-match streak between October and December 2000.
- The Blues are five points better off than at the same stage last season.
- They have lost one of last seven away London derbies in the league – the 3-1 defeat by West Ham on 1 December.
- Frank Lampard has scored six league goals at Craven Cottage – more than at any other ground except Bolton’s Reebok Stadium (seven). His next appearance will be his 600th for Chelsea, and he is two goals shy of Bobby Tambling’s club record tally of 202
The last four matchups have ended in draws and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s the same case in this match. Fulham haven’t been us at Craven Cottage since 2006, so we could have the upper hand there – 2-1 Chelsea.