Chelsea are struggling for form and Graham Potter is already under huge pressure
Fulham are enjoying a fantastic season and will hope to beat their rivals on Thursday
This could be a low-scoring game with Chelsea continuing to struggle to score goals
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Chelsea are struggling for goals, while Fulham will be without their top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Back under 2.5 goals when these west London neighbors go head-to-head. (+100)
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When Graham Potter was given the opportunity to take charge of Chelsea in early September, he did not hesitate. Within a day or so of Thomas Tuchel being dismissed, the former Brighton & Hove Albion head coach had decided to leave the Amex Stadium for west London.
In the process, Potter became only the second English manager to lead Chelsea on a permanent basis since 1996.
His work at Brighton had marked Potter out as a special coaching talent, perhaps England’s brightest hope in that department. It was not just the results that had impressed but the way the Seagulls played soccer under Potter.
So far, however, the 47-year-old’s dream job is in danger of turning into a nightmare. Potter actually made a decent start to his Chelsea tenure, even if it is easy to forget that now. The Blues did not lose any of his first nine encounters at the helm in all competitions.
At the end of October, Potter’s Chelsea were humbled 4-1 by his former club Brighton. Since then, it has all gone south. The Blues head into this game below Fulham in the table - a rare occurrence indeed.
They are out of the latter two competitions and occupy 10th place in the top flight. If results continue to go against them, Chelsea could easily end the month in the bottom half of the standings.
During Sunday’s 4-0 defeat by Manchester City in the FA Cup, Chelsea fans chanted the name of Tuchel. That does not bode well for Potter, even though the club insists it has faith in the manager and his long-term project.
Fulham are in a much happier place right now. Rated as the second-favorites for relegation by the best online sportsbooks at the beginning of the campaign, the Cottagers will almost certainly avoid the drop.
The manager deserves a huge amount of credit for his work so far. Silva’s reputation in England took a hit after his spell with Everton ended in disappointing fashion.
He returned to the game with Fulham in 2021 and led them to promotion for the first time of asking, but no one expected his team to be doing this well as we approach the midway point of this season.
Fulham fared badly in their last two attempts to stay in the Premier League. In fact, a point on Thursday would see them better their tally from the entirety of 2020/21, when Scott Parker was unable to keep the Cottagers in the division.
Silva has been helped by vast improvements in the club’s recruitment department. Almost all of Fulham’s summer signings have worked out.
Joao Palhinha has been a revelation as a ball-winning midfielder. Bernd Leno has been excellent in goal and Issa Diop has tightened up the backline. Willian has proved he is not yet over the hill out wide, while Andreas Pereira has thrived as a No.10.
All of that has left Fulham in a fantastic position as they prepare to contest their 19th game of the season.
Arsenal and Newcastle United have rightly received plenty of praise, but the Cottagers might be the biggest overachievers of the Premier League season so far.
Fulham have a dismal record in this fixture over the years. They have failed to win any of their last 20 clashes with their neighbors from down the road, while they have registered just one victory over Chelsea since 1979.
The historically one-sided nature of this rivalry is the main reason why it is not fierce as, say, Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur or Spurs vs Chelsea. But given how well they have done this term, Fulham will not have an inferiority complex in this particular meeting.
However, the absence through suspension of Aleksandar Mitrovic is undoubtedly a blow. The Serbia International has scored more than a third of Fulham's goals this season. Without him, their attack is not as strong.
Chelsea have struggled going forward all campaign. They rank only 12th for goals scored, having found the back of the net just 20 times to date. Potter's side have regularly looked insipid in the attack.
As such, we recommend backing under 2.5 goals in Thursday's game. Fulham will be content to keep things tight early on, while Chelsea are low on confidence and could struggle to penetrate their opponents' backline.
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Teams: Fulham vs Chelsea
Location: Craven Cottage, London, England
Date and Time: Thursday 12 January 2023, 3:00 PM EST
How to Watch: USA Network, fuboTV
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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