Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that Frank Lampard (groin) will remain sidelined for this game as well, but is hopeful that fellow midfielder Michael Essien could return from a toe injury to play some part in the west London derby.
The Italian boss will be expected to start with Didier Drogba — despite the recent admission the forward has contracted malaria — having left the Ivorian on the bench during the recent loss to Liverpool. This is partly due to injury concerns over Nicolas Anelka and Alex, although Ancelotti is hopeful both will be able to play after late assessments..
Jose Bosingwa could make a start after having played 20 minutes at Anfield.
Possible starting XI: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Essien, Mikel, Zhirkov; Anelka, Drogba, Malouda.
Carlos Salcido (ankle) will play no part in this encounter, having been injured in a tackle with Aston Villa’s Luke Young during the weekend game at Craven Cottage. Stephen Kelly would be expected to replace the experienced Mexican.
Dickson Etuhu and Damien Duff are expected to make the cut into the starting line-up for this encounter, with the Republic of Ireland international having occupied a spot on the bench over the weekend while his Nigerian team-mate is believed to have shaken off an ankle injury.
Andy Johnson is likely to remain on the bench, with manager Mark Hughes going with Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey in the attacking third of the pitch.
Possible starting XI: Schwarzer; Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Kelly; Davies, Etuhu, Murphy, Duff; Dembele, Dempsey.
Home comfort for Ancelotti
Chelsea have been fantastic at Stamford Bridge this season, and remain the only team to maintain a 100 per cent record on their own turf. They have also scored more number of goals (16) than any other team in their home games, and are also the only side not to have conceded a single goal in their own backyard.
Away day blues may have prevented Carlo Ancelotti’s charges from running away with a healthy lead at the top of the table, but their home unblemished home form means that the visitors have their task cut out.
The table toppers will also want to get back to winning ways as soon as possible, owing to the recent 2-0 loss to Liverpool. It was a game that saw their opponents showcase some strong form, while the Blues themselves wilted under a forceful first-half performance from their opponents.
With a tough set of fixtures in the form of a trip to Birmingham City and then Newcastle United coming up, with Everton, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal waiting in line to take on the champions, their ability to take away three points from games like this will likely determine whether or not they can successfully defend the Premier League title.
Tough derby day in prospect
Fulham have a history of being poor on the road, but have gone some way to shake off their performances away from home this season. But it’s been a mixed bag of results overall, as the team appears to be compensating for being beaten only once on their travels.
Over the weekend, Mark Hughes’ men put in a performance that was average at best, with lingering doubts as to whether they deserved a draw with Aston Villa. Brede Hangeland rescued the team on that occasion with a goal scored during the death.
The draw marked one more in a list of eight games in all competitions, of which the Cottagers have won only one. So the short trip to Stamford Bridge does not come at a good time for the club, as they are still trying to find their footing.
The absence of striker Bobby Zamora has also been a telling one, as his replacement Moussa Dembele - despite being a decent replacement - has not been able to provide his side with the necessary amount of goals. His tally stands at a meagre two goals so far, while two assists prove to make his record somewhat acceptable.
But all said and done, the team as a whole will have to take their game to another level to get a result at Stamford Bridge.
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