Fulham vs. Chelsea Preview and Predicted Line-up

Photo Source: Radio Times (Getty Images)

Maurizio Sarri has made his stand and finally asserted some authority over his Chelsea squad. Willy Caballero played in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Tottenham on Wednesday at the expense of the world’s most expensive and insubordinate goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The faux media outrage surrounding the Kepa incident has once again highlighted their desire to see Chelsea self-implode. Of course, at the time it was embarrassing to watch, and neither Kepa or Sarri initially looked particularly good. However, Sarri has handled the situation well in the aftermath and the squad will come out of what was a ‘bad moment’ stronger.

With Tottenham suffering their annual end-of-season meltdown, a place in the top four, that was starting to look precarious for Chelsea is edging back into view. With Liverpool and Manchester City all but guaranteed a Champions League spot, Spurs, United, Chelsea and Arenal are fighting it out for the remaining two slots.

The last two games, the League Cup Final and this weeks league game have proved to Chelsea fans that the players do still support Sarri. The fact that the Italian has slightly altered his system to accommodate the opposition bodes well for the remainder of the season. If we can string a few good results together we will still be able to attack a place in next season’s Champions League on two fronts. Next Thursday sees Dynamo Kiev visit Stamford Bridge in the last 16 of the Europa League.

Chelsea travel the short distance to Craven Cottage on Sunday to play a Fulham side under new management. With ex-Blues boss Claudio Ranieri no longer at the helm, ex-Blues midfielder Scott Parker will be in charge of Chelsea’s near neighbours. Maurizio Sarri indicated in his pre-match presser that he’d make 3 or 4 changes to his starting XI from the side that beat Spurs.

Goalkeeper – Kepa Arrizabalaga has been fined a weeks wages and dropped to the bench for his misunderstanding with the manager, let’s hope he never does something wrong. Although Willy Caballero didn’t have a save to make on Wednesday there’s no reason to drop him for this game. Kepa’s young and still has a lesson to learn. He will be back….stronger.

Defence –  Cesar Azpilicueta had been through an emotional roller coaster in recent games and could probably do with a break. It’s more likely to come in the Europa League though. His captaincy has come under scrutiny following Kepa-gate, but he’ll want to start. David Luiz, as he often does performed well in the big game and alongside Antonio Rudiger, has helped keep two consecutive clean sheets. If there is to be a change in the defence it’s most likely to be at left-back. Marcos Alonso played Wednesday, and with one staking a claim for the position, Emerson will play on Sunday as Sarri rotates.

Midfield – Fan power has seen Jorginho up his game following an outbreak of booing in the Malmo game when he was brought on as a substitute at Stamford Bridge. Despite playing out of position N’golo Kante has been immense as a box-to-box midfielder, but he needs a break. Sarri may wait until the Kiev game but Ruben Loftus-Cheek is more than capable of fulfilling the role against Fulham. Mateo Kovacic’s steely aggression can be sacrificed for Ross Barkley’s creativity as Sarri looks to help the front three increase Chelsea’s goal difference.

Attack – Chelsea’s finishing has been poor this season. Their shots to woodwork ratio is the league’s highest. Gonzalo Higuain was bought in to provide goals and he must now start to deliver. Eden Hazard played through the pain barrier on Wednesday and came off midway through the second half, a rest could be in order for the Belgian. If Hazard is missing it’s an opportunity for Willian to play in his position. The Brazilian plays better without Hazard in the side and if Pedro can reproduce his second-half performance a win will be on the cards.

Caballero, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Emerson, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Barkley, Willian, Pedro, Higuain

Follow Kevin on Twitter @techlec2000

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