Ancelotti will be braced for tough Fulham test

By Online Editorial

Fulham v Chelsea 2009

As Chelsea make the short trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham, new Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti shouldn’t expect an easy encounter.

The Italian is off to a 100% start as Chelsea manager after two games, but will face the biggest test of his short reign, when his side face their West London rivals Fulham tomorrow.

The Cottagers have also only tasted victory once so far in the league this season, having beaten Portsmouth on the opening day. Fulham were also in Europa League action on Thursday, beating Amkar Perm at Craven Cottage.

Chelsea will be the more rested side, as they were in action on Tuesday night against Sunderland. Just as they did with their opener against Hull, Ancelotti’s team had to come from behind before taking victory.

Ancelotti has utilised a diamond formation that though lacking in width, looks like it will get the most out of a Chelsea squad that is slightly top heavy with quality central midfielders.

In Drogba and Anelka, Chelsea have two strikers who have proven that they will score goals in the Premier League. Their defence remains the biggest concern, with a lack of quality cover for Jose Boswinga.

With title rivals Manchester United and Liverpool already having displayed some frailty in early defeats, Chelsea have narrowed in the betting to win the Premier League title, to 2.62.

Though Chelsea will be there or thereabouts, many still have their doubts over whether Ancelotti will win the title in his first season, especially given his poor league record at AC Milan.

And the Blues will get no favours at Fulham, who held Chelsea to a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage last season and also defeated Arsenal and Manchester United at their home ground.

Roy Hodgson has done a brilliant job as manager and has built a team based around midfielders who are comfortable on the ball and can retain possession.

But his limited squad will be tested this season by Fulham’s involvement in the Europa League, though he has bolstered his options by picking up Damien Duff and Jonathan Greening this week.

Hodgson’s reign at Fulham began with a 1-0 home win over Chelsea in March 2006, which remains their only victory over their local rivals in the last 25 games.

With Andrew Johnson out injured and Erik Nevland a doubt, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fulham played one up front and packed the midfield, which would also counteract against Chelsea’s diamond formation.

Fulham may also be without Dickson Etuhu, who is fighting for fitness. Chelsea are without their long term absentees Alex, Belletti, Joe Cole, Ferreira and Zhirkov.

This will a big test for Chelsea and their championship potential. They have started well out of the blocks, but did the same last season under Phil Scolari.

Reproduced with permission from © The Sporting Exchange Limited


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