West London rivals Chelsea and Fulham cross swords at Stamford Bridge on Saturday in the Premier League with precious points up for grabs. Mark O'Haire shares his views...
"It’s proven a profitable formula in 13 of the Blues’ 14 victories across all competitions since Tuchel pitched up at Stamford Bridge in January"
Chelsea v Fulham
Saturday May 1, 17:30
Chelsea impress in Madrid
Chelsea produced a composed performance to secure a deserved draw and a crucial away goal to put themselves in a promising position after their Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid on Tuesday. Thomas Tuchel's side were superior on the night and might even regard themselves as unfortunate not to take an advantage back to Britain.
The Blues over-ran Madrid in the early stages and should have taken the lead when Timo Werner shot straight at Thibaut Courtois from six yards. However, the guests were ahead after only 14 minutes when Christian Pulisic steered home a clever finish. Real were on the ropes but Karim Benzema brought the hosts back into the game with a brilliant equaliser.
Chelsea had the better of the second half but could not carve out the chance to score a potentially vital second to Tuchel's frustration. The Blues boss said, "I have a feeling we should have won the first half and that we deserved to win the first half. We could have perhaps decided this game in the first half hour when we were playing so strong."
Fulham drop vital points
Fulham boss Scott Parker bemoaned the decision to allow Eddie Nketiah's stoppage-time equaliser for Arsenal to stand last weekend as the Cottagers coughed up points late on at The Emirates. It delivered a major blow to the Whites' survival prospects, who led through Josh Maja's second-half penalty and looked on course to gain a valuable victory.
Nketiah's 97th-minute effort came with Arsenal defender Rob Holding stood in an offside position to the side of Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who had saved Dani Ceballos' initial shot. However, as Holding did not touch the ball he was deemed not to be interfering with play as Gunners forward Nketiah tapped in and secured a share of the spoils.
In a game of few clear-cut chances Arsenal merited their point with Maja's spot-kick representing Fulham's only effort on target. The result leaves the Cottagers seven points from safety with Parker admitting, "That was a real painful one. I don't know how the goal stood. I don't understand it. I am a little bit confused but we are all confused of late."
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 18 home games against near neighbours Fulham across all competitions (W10-D8-L0), a run of results that dates way back to 1979. Include all venues and in Premier League meetings, the Blues have been beaten by the Cottagers just once in 29 tussles (W18-D10-L1).
Chelsea 1.501/2 are neck-and-neck with table-toppers Man City in terms of performance data since Thomas Tuchel took charge. The Blues' boast the division's best defence in that sample, shipping three Premier League goals in 13 fixtures when excluding the bizarre West Brom implosion. The hosts are difficult to dismiss with key points up for grabs.
Fulham 8.808/1 have earned a solitary point from five (W0-D1-L4) with the Cottagers really toiling in the final-third. No top-flight side has created fewer Big Chances than Scott Parker's side over the last eight encounters with the Whites scoring multiple goals just twice since November. The visitors have earned top honours on an equal-low five times this term.
Chelsea's improvements from a defensive standpoint have been well documented and the Blues' goals per-game figures have dropped drastically under Thomas Tuchel's watch with only two of 22 overall outings featuring four goals or more. The home side have earned 16 shutouts during that sequence and could repeat the feat against powder-puff Fulham.
The Cottagers have managed a goals per-game output of their own of only 0.76 with the Whites preferring to play a pragmatic style, built around their well-drilled, organised and capable backline. The away side have proven relatively competitive - only four league games have surpassed the Over 3.5 Goals line - although they ultimately lack a goal threat.
Under 2.5 Goals 1.9310/11 could be an interesting angle for purely goals-based punters, but I prefer to take up the appealing 1.9520/21 from the Bet Builder on Chelsea to succeed and Under 3.5 Goals - it's proven a profitable formula in 13 of the Blues' 14 victories across all competitions since Tuchel pitched up at Stamford Bridge in January.
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