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Dec 2, 2018 at 12pm UK at Stamford Bridge
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Preview: Chelsea vs. Fulham - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Sunday's Premier League meeting between Chelsea and Fulham at Stamford Bridge.

The first of three local Premier League derbies on Sunday takes place at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea play host to Fulham in a midday kickoff.

The Blues suffered their first domestic defeat of the season last time out when losing 3-1 to Tottenham Hotspur, while the Cottagers - now under the management of ex-Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri - ended a seven-match losing run on the same day.


Maurizio Sarri on the touchline during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Crystal Palace on November 4, 2018© Reuters

After starting the season in style with five league wins on the spin, the hosts have since collected three wins from their last eight outings to fade out of title contention and into fourth place.

Even when putting together win after win in early autumn, Maurizio Sarri insisted that his side lacked the depth of Manchester City and Liverpool, views that were echoed by Eden Hazard, which has become clear over the past couple of months.

Draws to Manchester United, Liverpool, West Ham United and Everton in a seven-match run halted Chelsea's momentum, but it was not until last weekend's loss at Wembley that questions were first asked of Sarri, whose run of 12 games without defeat at the start of his tenure set a new Premier League record.

Chelsea produced a poor display at the national stadium and should have lost by more than a two-goal margin, with that loss leaving them just a point in front of a rejuvenated Arsenal in fifth.

The West London outfit have not gone three matches without a top-flight win since September 2016 - a campaign that would end with them lifting the Premier League title in Antonio Conte's first season at the helm, which is surely already out of the question this time around due to Man City's continued brilliance at the top.

Sarri's men have a perfect record from their home London derbies this term, though, beating both Arsenal and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge so far, whereas opponents Fulham have lost all three of their matches against sides from the capital by an aggregate 10-2 scoreline.

Not since April have Chelsea tasted defeat at home, meanwhile, and their next goal there will bring up 1,000 in the Premier League era. After returning to winning ways with a straightforward 4-0 win over PAOK on Thursday, Sarri could do with his side finding some momentum as we enter the busiest period of the season.

Recent form in Premier League: WDWWDL
Recent form (all competitions): WWWDLW


Claudio Ranieri in charge of Fulham on November 24, 2018© Reuters

As harsh as it may seem after guiding the club back to the summit of English football, Fulham were forced into a corner when it came to sacking manager Slavisa Jokanovic earlier this month.

The Cottagers had lost seven in a row in all competitions to find themselves out of the EFL Cup and rock bottom of the Premier League. The most worrying aspect of life under Jokanovic, in 2018-19 at least, was the manner in which Fulham shipped goals.

Eighteen goals have been conceded in their seven league matches since returning to the top flight, including three at Man City, two at Liverpool and three at Tottenham in their toughest games to date.

Just one point has been collected on their travels, coming back on September 1 when holding Brighton & Hove Albion to a 2-2 draw on the south coast, but already the mood has changed around Craven Cottage following the arrival of Ranieri.

The man now best remembered for winning the Premier League title with Leicester City a couple of years ago is tasked with a challenge of a different kind, though it is far from an impossible challenge. Last weekend's 3-2 win against fellow strugglers Southampton has the Cottagers just a point from safety.

Ranieri has his work cut out if he is to improve his side's away form, however, as they follow up this trip to Stamford Bridge with a meeting against Manchester United at Old Trafford, sandwiching a home match against the Italian's ex-employers Leicester.

Tightening up at the back is no doubt a key priority for Ranieri, with Fulham the only side in all four tiers of the English Football League yet to have kept a clean sheet, conceding at least two goals in 11 of their last 13 matches.

Fulham have key games against Leicester, West Ham United, Newcastle United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Huddersfield Town to prepare for before the end of the year. Getting points on the board for the first time in two months was a start, and now they have to push on if Ranieri's latest Premier League adventure is to end on another high.

Recent form in Premier League: LLLLLW
Recent form (all competitions): LLLLLW

Team News

Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard celebrate during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Crystal Palace on November 4, 2018© Reuters

Sarri made 10 changes to his starting lineup for the home match with PAOK on Thursday night, with goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga the only player to retain his place in the side.

It proved to be a positive night for the Blues in many regards, as Callum Hudson-Odoi scored one and set up another on his first senior start, while Olivier Giroud netted twice to stake his claim for a regular starting spot.

Alvaro Morata also registered three minutes after replacing Giroud, however, and may just have done enough to earn a place in the side to face Fulham on Sunday.

Sarri is also expected to recall Hazard, who has recovered from a foot injury, and Mateo Kovacic - not Ross Barkley - appears likely to be given the nod alongside Jorginho and N'Golo Kante in central midfield.

In terms of the visitors, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Kevin McDonald remain sidelined with a thigh and hamstring injury respectively.

There are no fresh injury concerns for Ranieri to contend with, though, and Joe Bryan is now back in contention after returning to the squad against Southampton after a seven-week absence.

Andre Schurrle is in contention to start his 13th league game of the season, meaning a return to Stamford Bridge three years after departing for Wolfsburg.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Willian, Morata, Hazard

Fulham possible starting lineup:
Rico; Christie, Odoi, Mawson, Bryan; Chambers, Seri; Schurrle, Cairney, Sessegnon; Mitrovic

Head To Head

Chelsea have gone 16 matches without suffering defeat against Fulham in the league and have lost just once in 26 Premier League meetings, winning 15 of those.

The Cottagers' last win over their West London rivals came in March 2006 when Luis Boa Morte scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Craven Cottage.

However, this weekend's match will mark the first time that the sides have faced off in any competition in almost five years.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Chelsea 3-0 Fulham

Chelsea returned to winning ways with a convincing 4-0 win over 10-man PAOK on Thursday night, but it is arguably Fulham who head into this match in the better mood thanks to their win against Southampton a week ago. A trip to Stamford Bridge is not the kindest of opening away fixtures for Ranieri, however, and this could be another rude awakening for the division's bottom-placed side.

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Christian Eriksen in action for Tottenham Hotspur on August 27, 2018
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