Fulham v Chelsea – Match preview and team news

Chelsea’s fixture pile-up continues as they attempt to recover from the pain of their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City by reigniting their fight for a place in the top four next season.

The Blues were poor at Wembley on Sunday but the focus must return to their ambition to be in the Champions League next season after their league form, particularly on the road, has taken a hit in recent weeks due to the focus on cup competitions.

While home form has not been a problem for interim boss Rafa Benitez, his side have not won in their last four league games, a run that has included three consecutive defeats to Newcastle, Manchester City and Southampton. Another defeat at Craven Cottage would leave the Blues, currently in fourth place with two games in hand on Arsenal above them and a game in hand on fifth-placed Tottenham, with a mountain to climb if they are to avoid missing out on the top four for the second reason in a row.

Benitez is unlikely to rush back Ashley Cole from his hamstring problem so Ryan Bertrand looks set to deputise once again. However, the Spaniard is set to make several changes to his starting XI from the one that failed against City with John Terry, Frank Lampard, Fernando Torres and Victor Moses all likely to come back into the fold.

Fulham meanwhile are in high spirits after their point at Aston Villa brought them to the 40 point mark and guaranteed safety. Indeed, the 10th-placed Cottagers now lie only one point off Swansea and will be looking to at least equal last season’s finish of ninth with even eighth-placed West Brom not too far ahead currently.

Former Chelsea midfielder Steve Sidwell will miss the visit of his former club as he completes a three-match suspension while Ashkan Dejagah and Mahamadou Diarra are Martin Jol’s only injury-enforced absentees.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Fulham v Chelsea

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