The Two Mile Derby

For years Chelsea fans have chanted the words “there is only one team in Fulham” at their London neighbors.  For the American who knows a little bit about London boroughs they would guess that Chelsea FC is in Chelsea and Fulham FC is in Fulham.  Well you’d be wrong.  Both of these premier league clubs inhabit the London borough of Fulham which makes this derby a particularly contentious one.  The two stadiums are separated by less than two miles, however the distance between the two in the table this year will be much larger.

Chelsea FCchelsea

Manager – Jose Mourinho

Owner – Roman Abramovich

Stadium – Stamford Bridge

Nicknames – The Blues

For years and years Chelsea yo-yo’d up and down between the top of the League One and lower levels of football.  In 1955 Chelsea won their first League title and won a few other major trophies through the years but was not really a significant player in the game.  They are however the only team in Britain with a top hit that was written for them in “Blue is the Colour”.  That is until Russian billion Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.  In the last 10 years Chelsea has become not just a player in England but a European power.  Since 2003, Chelsea has won 3 league titles, 4 FA cups, a Europa League and a Champions League title.

Stamford Bridge is not without its problems.  Since Abromovich has taken over 10 managers have been responsible for the West London Side’s upkeep.  The Russian seems to also want to bring in talent rather than grow it in house which could come into play when financial fair play comes into effect.  Despite this, Chelsea possesses a core group of players that have been a staple of the club for a while.  Englishmen such as Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole, along with Goal Keeper Petr Cech, have provided the only stability to the West London Side.

mourinho               Chelsea’s new manager, Jose Mourinho, is a familiar face in Stamford Blue.  In his previous stint as Chelsea’s manager the Portuguese boss managed six trophies in just three years including 2 Premier League titles.  His exploits at Chelsea, as well as on the continent, have earned this tactical genius the nickname of the “Special One”.  However, Mourinho proposed an amendment to his nickname now wishing to be called the “Happy One”, referring to his delight in returning to Stamford Bridge.

If you look at the Chelsea side there is a reason for Mourinho to be happy.  Not only does he have the familiar faces of Lampard and Terry around him but some new creative ones as well.  Despite a seemingly resolved spat with 2-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata, the manager seems to have a great relationship with his players.  His willingness to rotate players and tactics seems to have the full attention and support of attacking options such as former Leverkeusan striker Schurrle and Pre-Neymar Brazilian #10 Oscar.  Chelsea also look solid at the back with Ivonovic, Terry, Cahill, and Cole making up the starting four and the depth of Azpilicueta, Luiz, and Betrand adds to the terrifying potential of Chelsea.

There are problems tactically for Mourinho.  Even though Chelsea brought in the former continental extraordinaire lukakuSamuel Eto’o, he has yet to adjust to life in London.  Torres seems to be the manager and owners favorite for this year’s campaign, but his quality seemed to vanish when he switched from Merseyside Red to Chelsea blue.  There is hope down the road.  On loan striker Romelu “Little Drogba” Lukaku has been tearing it up at Everton.  Despite this there are reports of the London side looking to sign Athletico Madrid striker Diego Costa.  However, these aren’t the main tactical issue at Stamford Bridge.  The combination of Ramires and Lampard has looked threatening at the back but are too vulnerable in defending situations.  With Van Ginkle hurt, and mixed results with Luiz and Mikel playing in front of the back 4 means Chelsea need options.  Real Madrid’s Sam Khedira is on the Mourinho’s radar and would certainly firm up the back line.  Juventus have also set a price tag for Defensive Midfielder Paul Pogba if Chelsea wishes to claim him.  Draxler from Schalke has also come up on Roman’s List but the abundance of attacking options means this is unlikely to happen as well.

The side that currently wears Chelsea Blue is full of quality.  Even though they currently sit below Arsenal on the table, previous experience shows that the depth at Stamford Bridge will most likely overwhelm the gunners.  At the end of the season, Chelsea should be in a battle for the League Title and hopefully another European Championship.  Because at the end of the game we all know “BLUE IS THE COLOUR, FOOTBALL IS THE GAME, WE’RE ALL TOGETHER, AND WINNING IS OUR AIM SO COME CHEER US ON IN THE SUN AND RAIN CAUSE CHELSEA, CHELSEA IS OUR NAME”.

Fulhamfulham_badge-1

Manager: Martin Jol

Owner: Shahid Khan

Stadium: Craven Cottage

Nicknames: The cottagers, The whites

Fulham is the oldest established team based in London.  Located in southwest London Fulham are currently in their 13th consecutive season in the Premier League.  Fulham Football club was founded in 1879 and have had their share of ups and downs. They have yet to win any major cups but that doesn’t mean they haven’t smelled success.  Most recently a Clint Dempsey led Fulham side to the 2010 Europa League Final only to see them lose 2-1 to Athletico Madrid.  Since that final it has been a bit rocky for Fulham; they have been battling relegation the last couple years and this year won’t be any different.  Most recently they were bought by Jacksonville Jaguar Owner Shahid Kahn and the scene around Craven Cottage has been a bit on edge trying to figure out what the new owner was going to change, and if he was going to remove the famous Michael Jackson statue in front of the stadium that the previous owner had put in place. Unfortunately, the great statue of Michael Jackson was removed September 25th and returned to previous owner Mohamed Al Fayed.  Much to the dismay of Fulham fans they won’t be moon walking their way to any Premier League titles anytime soon.

michael jackson               This year’s Fulham side started with a win against a hopeful Sunderland side captained by coach Pablo Di Canio and American Jozy Altidore.  But after that it was all downhill in the Premier League.  Fulham and Martin Jol then went through a five game winless drought in the Premier League. The owner and fans started to voice some concern after losing to newly promoted Cardiff City at Craven Cottage back in late September. The team seemed to respond to the adversity with a one nil win against Stoke at home just before the international break.  This was key in my opinion because had Fulham lost that game it would have been the perfect opportunity to change managers, quite like Sunderland did that same week.  Though the cloud of uncertainty hadn’t completely lifted, a win against Crystal Palace really seemed to ease the anxiety around the Fulham camp.  Although Fulham fell behind early to Crystal Palace, they did come back with some spectacular goals from Pajtim Kasami and Steve Sidwell to lift them to a win, a crucial three points and potentially save Martin Jols job. Even with the win I still don’t think its all peachy for Fulham, they will struggle all year with relegation in my opinion.  I had Fulham being relegated in my final table at the beginning of the year and I still feel pretty confident that will stay true toward the last weeks of the season.  Can we be honest here? With an aging Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Bent as your striking force up top I don’t think many Premier League teams feel too intimidated with this squads attacking prowess.  The Cottagers have some tough tests with some of the leagues top teams in the next three fixtures against Southampton, Manchester United and Liverpool, if they don’t find a way to get some sort of points out of those three games they could find themselves in the relegation zone in a not so distant future.  The Premier League, and Chelsea for that matter, are better if Fulham stays in the top division but they aren’t going to do it for them, the Cottagers are going to have to go out and find a way to pick up crucial points when people don’t expect it if we’re to talk about them again come next August.

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