With Chelsea’s stuttering form continuing into the new year, Fulham have been priced up at 10/1 to finish above their West London rivals in the Premier League this season.
The Cottagers have a miserable record against Chelsea, with Luis Boa Morte bagging the winner the last time Fulham took all three points from the Blues, but Marco Silva’s men are just 23/10 to buck the trend on Thursday night.
You have to go much further back to 1983 for the last time Fulham finished above Chelsea, however.
Fulham 10/1 to finish above Chelsea
bet365’s Steve Freeth said: “2006 was the last time Chelsea tasted defeat against Fulham and you have to go back 40 years for when the Craven Cottage side ended a campaign ahead of them, so history as well as the odds are not on their side.
“However, Graham Potter is yet to work his magic at his new club, while Fulham seem to be going from strength to strength on their return to the top flight in a season where they were one of the favourites to go back down.
“The Cottage has been a happy hunting ground, as well as a short trip, for Chelsea fans over the years, but the hosts must be rubbing their hands at the prospect of facing their out-of-sorts rivals – even without the talismanic Aleksandar Mitrovic.”
While the Cottagers are enjoying a rather remarkable season, Chelsea are enduring one.
Fulham’s last five campaigns have seen promotion then relegation in alternate years, but they have perhaps been the biggest over-achievers in the division so far, and are now 33/1 to go down, whilst being shorter to finish in the top half (4/5) than Chelsea are to finish in the top six (6/5).
Two slight areas of concern for Fulham fans may be their xG tallies, both for and against, as well as their reliance on Mitrovic. Their xG is 4.6 worse than their actual tally, while they’ve conceded just 27 goals from an xGA of 30.2.
It’s fair to say that Mitrovic conclusively proved last season that even if he wasn’t good enough for the Premier League, where he’d previously scored 24 goals in 104 games, he’s certainly too good for the Championship.
As it’s happened, he’s proved he’s certainly good enough for the Premier League too, sitting behind only Erling Haaland, Harry Kane and Ivan Toney in the race for the Golden Boot, reaching double figures before we’ve got to the halfway mark of the season.
Manager Marco Silva, however, might be keen to see his supporting cast chip in a little more; Mitrovic has scored as many goals as the next four top scorers combined.
On top of that, the three games the Serb has missed were all Fulham defeats – though two were against Manchester United and Manchester City – with the Cottagers losing 4-1 to Newcastle when Mitrovic was removed in the first half with an ankle injury.
But should the 28-year-old stay fit for the rest of the campaign, there’s little reason to think Fulham won’t be in the top half come May, particularly with most of the bottom half mis-firing and being much more concerned with the sides around them than those above with just two points separating 13th and 18th.
The picture for Chelsea, meanwhile, looks much bleaker. After the disappointing end to last season and start to this, there was an immediate uptick following Graham Potter’s arrival, with Chelsea stringing together wins and clean sheets.
But their form since well before the World Cup is alarming, and left Potter’s long-term future at Stamford Bridge in doubt.
Cast your mind back to the 0-0 draw with Brentford and the 1-1 draw with Manchester United when Casemiro scored a last-minute equaliser. Remarkably, after those two draws, Chelsea picked up just four points from the next six games; form of a side battling relegation rather than one fighting for Champions League football.
And there’s little reason for optimism. In the last 10 Premier League games, the Blues have registered 1.0 xG on just three occasions – one of them was a home game against Bournemouth – while allowing at least 1.0 xGA on seven occasions.
Recruitment is another cause for concern at Stamford Bridge. In the summer, following Todd Boehly’s arrival in London, the Blues spent £30m on 31-year-old Kalidou Koulibaly, as well as £70m after a protracted transfer saga to bring Wesley Fofana to the club, but the young Frenchman has been limited to just two games through injury.
Around £60m was spent on Marc Cucurella, who’s not yet lived up to the price tag, while the search for forward options was limited to the £50m Raheem Sterling before a rather uninspiring move for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The latest move appears to be a short-term loan for Joao Felix, which again, doesn’t scream strong forward planning.
The top four (11/2) now looks a long shot, and Chelsea fans, as well as manager Potter himself, will be keen to at least lay down the foundations for a more positive campaign next time around.