Chelsea and Fulham have rather different priorities in the final weeks of the season as they meet in this evening’s west London derby at Stamford Bridge.
For the Blues, this fixture comes disects the two legs of their Champions League semi-final clash with Real Madrid, a tie which is nicely poised after a 1-1 draw in Madrid on Tuesday night.
That does not mean today’s game isn’t of huge importance, however, with Thomas Tuchel’s side looking to cement their place in the Premier League’s top four after last weekend’s crucial win over West Ham.
As for Fulham, by Scott Parker’s own admission they are running out of time to save themselves from the drop and it would curely take something miraculous in the final weeks of the season to keep the Cottagers up.
You can follow all the action LIVE with Standard Sport’s blog below…
It’s a big day for Billy Gilmour, so often praised by Frank Lampard, as he starts a Premier League game for the first time under Thomas Tuchel.
The youngster, of course, has Euro2020 ambitions with Scotland and needs as many minutes as he can get between now and the end of the campaign.
Fulham, meanwhile, are unchanged from the side that started the draw at Arsenal, which means that Josh Maja continues to lead the line, with Aleksandr Mitrovic on the bench.
So, Thomas Tuchel makes five changes to the side that started in Madrid, with Kurt Zouma coming in for Antonio Rudiger as the enforced one.
Reece James starts at wing-back, while Billy Gilmour comes into the heart of midfield, with Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho all given a rest.
That means Mason Mount will play deeper, while Christian Pulisic is rested as Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz join Timo Werner in attack.
Chelsea vs Fulham team news
Chelsea XI: Mendy, Christensen, Thiago Silva, Zouma, James, Gilmour, Mount, Chilwell, Ziyech, Werner, Havertz.
Subs: Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Abraham, Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi, Azpilicueta, Anjorin.
Fulham XI: Areola, Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson, Reid, Anguissa, Lemina, Lookman, Maja, Ivan Cavaleiro.
Subs: Tete, Hector, Odoi, Mitrovic, Rodak, Ream, Bryan, Onomah, Carvalho.
With all that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what Thomas Tuchel does with his team selection – we’ll have team news in just under ten minutes’ time.
Despite that Madrid game looming large, Tuchel knows exactly what’s at stake tonight, with the chance to – at least temporarily – open up a six-point cushion in the top four.
“Fulham is a good chance to keep our advantage in the league, nothing else,” Tuchel said, with West Ham currently three points behind.
“I know very well it is a match between two semi-finals, it is not a usual week but I’m happy. It is the moment to prove to ourselves that we can focus our energy into tomorrow’s game.”
Tuchel: There’s no time to breathe
This derby of course comes in the middle of two massive Champions League games for Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel has been speaking about how the hectic schedule in England compares to that he faced in France when in charge of PSG.
“It’s brutal. We played in France the same amount of games … but, of course, the challenge and intensity of this league is different,” Tuchel said.
“It is another level, quite relentless. But it keeps you on your front foot and getting out of bed early. There is simply no time to breathe, to sit back and get too relaxed or comfortable. This is a good thing.”
Standard Sport prediction
Fulham have an awful Premier League record against Chelsea, winning just once in 29 matches.
Parker’s side will need to put in a big performance to take something away from the Bridge, but you suspect that even with Tuchel likely to switch up his squad, Chelsea should still take the win.
Chelsea XI: Mendy; Zouma, Silva, Christensen; James, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso; Ziyech, Mount; Havertz
Fulham XI: Areola; Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson; Decordova-Reid, Lemina, Zambo Anguissa, Lookman; Maja, Mitrovic
Fulham team news
Fulham captain Tom Cairney has been stepping up his recovery from a long-term knee injury which has kept him sidelined since December, and Parker is hopeful the midfielder will be able to play some role before the end of the season, although Saturday’s clash will come too soon.
Terence Kongolo remains sidelined for the remainder of the season, in what has been the latest in a long list of injuries.
Provisional Fulham squad: Areola, Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson, Decordova-Reid, Anguissa, Lemina, Lookman, Maja, Cavaleiro, Fabri, Hector, Ream, Odoi, Bryan, Onomah, Loftus-Cheek, Mitrovic.