Chelsea need to realise the importance of Saturday’s visit to Villa Park or face some pretty serious consequences in what remains of the season.
Rightly so the game’s importance has been overshadowed by the sad news that Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia but it still remains a must-win game for the Blues.
In truth every game is a cup final between now and the end of the season, but the next one is only key if Chelsea get three points in the Midlands.
It won’t be easy on a ground Chelsea do not enjoy visiting but it is a win at all costs affair if Roberto Di Matteo is going to steer his men to fourth and a Champions League berth next season.
The club have been dealt a blow this week with the news the FA will once again put money ahead of English football’s success on the European stage by refusing Chelsea’s request to move the FA Cup semi-final tie with Tottenham Hotspur from its pre-agreed 6pm Sunday slot.
That means should Chelsea beat Benfica to reach the Champions League last four they will have under 72 hours to prepare for a clash with Barcelona or AC Milan having faced Spurs at Wembley.
But all that is irrelevant right now – Chelsea need to focus on the here and now and that means putting some pressure on Tottenham by beating Villa.
A draw looks the best result for the battle weary Blues and if that happens it’s goodbye Champions League football next term.
Fulham isn’t a very intimidating place to go for an away game, but Saturday’s visitors to Craven Cottage will have cold sweats as they go through the turnstiles.
With a friendly and old fan base, situated in a nice part of London by the Thames and with very little to often play for in the grand scheme of things, away trips to Craven Cottage must be nice for the away contingent.
But despite that it has been Fulham’s home form that has kept them in the Premier League for all these years, turning the Cottage into a fortress.
However, the last time Norwich City came to Fulham it was the last day of the 2004/2005 season and the Canaries suffered heavy 6-0 defeat, consigning them to relegation.
They went all the way down to League One before returning to English football’s topflight this season, and they got some revenge as Simeon Jackson scored a late leveller to earn a point at Carrow Road earlier in the season.
But their hunger for revenge will not have been satisfied and they will be up for it on Saturday, eager to lay the ghosts to rest all these years on.
However Fulham themselves have a point to prove, a run of three straight wins being followed by three defeats without scoring a goal.
So expect a game of attacking intent down by the river today, and perhaps even a nasty atmosphere for a change.
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