Premier League Preview: Chelsea v Fulham
By Football News
Chelsea will be desperate to end a four-match winless streak when they host Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Saturday in the Premier League.
Meetings between the two West London sides are normally tight affairs, and Chelsea have won just one of their last five league fixtures against Fulham.
And the match takes on extra significance for the UEFA Europa League winners given their slow start to the season.
Chelsea will enter the Premier League clash without a victory in any competition in a month, and defeats to Everton and Basel in the last week will have caused concern with the club's supporters.
Pressure is already starting to build on returning manager Jose Mourinho, while his decision to loan Romelu Lukaku to Everton has been questioned by many.
New signing Samuel Eto'o has failed to impress in his first two matches for the club after joining from Anzhi Makhachkala, while fellow striker Fernando Torres is still short of form.
And Wednesday's defeat to Basel was a real shock, with Chelsea conceding twice in the last 20 minutes in front of their home fans on Wednesday to lose 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League.
Chelsea defender Gary Cahill is aware that the club's form has been poor, but stopped short of calling it a crisis.
"It's not a disaster but it's not ideal. A club like this wants to win the majority of games it plays," Cahill told the club's official website.
"That's the expectation. It's a blow but it's not the be all and end all.
"We need to win our next game now, as simple as that. The manager will stress that."
Mourinho's unbeaten record in Premier League fixtures at Stamford Bridge is a staggering 62 matches and although Chelsea's struggles will give Fulham a boost, Martin Jol's side are in poor form themselves.
After a 1-0 triumph at Sunderland on the opening day, Fulham have failed to win in the league, leaving them in 14th position in the table.
Fulham looked set for all three points at Craven Cottage on Saturday against struggling West Brom, but conceded in injury time, as Gareth McAuley's header salvaged a point for the visitors in a 1-1 draw.
Star striker Dimitar Berbatov has failed to score in his four Premier League fixtures this season, while loan signing Darren Bent has started just once.
Bent is likely to return from a hamstring injury for the match, while Berbatov – who limped off against West Brom with a hamstring problem of his own – is a doubt.
Attacker Bryan Ruiz (ankle) was also substituted against West Brom and is likely to miss out, while goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg (shoulder) and defenders Aaron Hughes (thigh) and Matthew Briggs (hernia) will not feature.
Chelsea have a clean bill of health and will be hopeful of extending their 14-match unbeaten league run against Fulham.
Of their seven home matches in that run though, just three have been wins, and Mourinho will be desperate to improve that in a potentially season-defining encounter.