Chelsea hosts Fulham on Tuesday in what is emerging as an highly anticipated west London derby with implications both on and off the pitch for each club.
- (Photo: Reuters/Darren Staples)
For interim coach Rafa Benitez, his second match as the club's skipper will be highly scrutinized as he does his best to return the Blues to winning form after going winless in their last five league matches.
In Benitez's first game as manager, his side drew defending league champions Manchester City in a game that saw only a few good chances.
"It's possible to play attacking football, like Barcelona, with these players … but I have spent some time with Roman, and we were not talking about the Barcelona style," Benitez told The Sun.
"Roman says he wants to see the team playing well and winning, but not with the Barcelona style. He knows we don't have Messi, Xavi, Iniesta - players who have been working together for years," he added.
To make his task harder, Benitez will most likely be without Frank Lampard and John Terry due to injury. Their absence has left a hole in the center of their defense and is one of the reasons Chelsea conceded in eight straight matches before their tie against Manchester City. Striker Daniel Sturridge is also slated to sit out this derby with a hamstring injury.
For Fulham and manager Martin Jol, there are no new injury obstacles, but they will be without central back Brede Hangeland, who will be serving his suspension after getting shown a red card against Sunderland.
Fulham will also be without midfielders Alexander Kacaniklic, Bryan Ruiz and Kieran Richardson, who will all miss the game with respective injuries. The club needs to find its defensive identity in their absence given that the club has conceded the third most goals this season with 23, behind only Southampton and Queens Park Rangers.
Jol's side has, however, scored 25 goals, which is tied with Manchester City for second in the Premiership.
Kick-off for the match is at 2:25 ET and can be watched online here.