Chelsea toothless despite lively Enzo Fernandez debut

Enzo Fernandez of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Fulham FC at Stamford Bridge - Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Enzo Fernandez of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Fulham FC at Stamford Bridge - Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

By Sam Wallace, at Stamford Bridge

At least no-one could argue that the £280 million spent in the January window has not improved this Graham Potter team – 25 days earlier they lost to the same Fulham side, although a goalless draw was not what anyone at Chelsea had in mind when the epic spending was sanctioned.

Enzo Fernandez, British football’s most expensive player, made his debut and the £106 million man must realise it will be a while yet before this Chelsea team plays the way he was doubtless promised it would. Up in the expensive seats, the men who financed this great menagerie of expensive footballers were left to wonder at the game’s stubborn refusal to bend to their will.

Todd Boehly, and his fellow king of the Chelsea consortium, Behdad Eghbali, have bet the house on this team, and so nights like these will be uncomfortable. The sting will have been in the mediocrity of this Chelsea side which, for all the investment, does lack an orthodox striker. Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang, left out the Champions League squad, was pictured on a break in Milan. Potter said the player had been given the weekend off.

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly (left) and George Osborne in the stands ahead of the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge - John Walton/PA
Chelsea owner Todd Boehly (left) and George Osborne in the stands ahead of the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge - John Walton/PA

Many of the new signings played for Potter on this evening as starters and substitutes – not just Fernandez, but Benoit Badiashile, Mykhailo Mudryk, David Datro Fofana and Noni Madueke, for whom this was also a debut. There were returns from injury for Reece James and Ben Chilwell, a late substitute. The squad is coming back together, a vast clan of talented players summoned from all over Europe, yet the results are barely changing. This draw means it is two wins for Chelsea in their last eight Premier League games.

On the touchline before the game was another of them, the loan signing Joao Felix who was sent off in the corresponding fixture at Craven Cottage last month and will return from suspension for the visit to West Ham on Saturday. That feels like a game Potter has to win – along with all the other games he has had to win. More difficult decisions await him in team selection, and whichever way he turns, all he can be sure of is that someone will be upset.

Potter has already made 64 changes to his teams in his first 15 Premier League games – second only as a record to his predecessor Thomas Tuchel. There were seven on this night. This is a side that is playing for the first time and is being constructed game by game by its new manager. Fascinating for the rest of us but an almighty challenge for Potter.

Very different for Marco Silva whose well-organised and rigorously-drilled Fulham side continue to break new ground. They have become very hard to beat and this was their third clean sheet in their last four away games. They finished the game with more attempts on goal than Chelsea managed, despite having much less of the ball. They are three places above Chelsea in sixth and not since 1959-1960 have they begun a top-flight campaign as successfully as this one.

Kai Havertz of Chelsea shoots and hits the post during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Fulham FC - Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Kai Havertz of Chelsea shoots and hits the post during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Fulham FC - Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

There were more fine performances from Joao Palhinha and Andreas Pereira in midfield and another sparkling contribution from Willian, the 34-year-old who saw it all in seven years at Chelsea. The new Chelsea arrivals will have done well if they build a career at the club that matches that of the Brazilian, who slipped past Fernandez just before the hour on another one of those sinuous runs with the ball.

For all the money spent Chelsea are still beholden to Kai Havertz to play in that central striker’s role that will always feel like the wrong place for him. He failed to take advantage of a couple of first half chances. Potter also started Hakim Ziyech who was a few late emails away from joining Paris St Germain on Monday night. Mudryk, whom Potter said had been suffering from a cold all week, was replaced at half-time by Madueke.

Amongst all the new arrivals Potter also started the game with Conor Gallagher, Mason Mount and James from among the Chelsea academy contingent. Badiashile had the benefit of playing alongside Chelsea's best performer. That was the eternal Thiago Silva, 38 years old, and still well capable of anticipating problems before they became acute.

This was a better first half for Fernandez than it was after the break and there were moments that showed what he might offer. He is a very effective winner of possession in the defensive midfield positions and picked one nice pass to an offside Havertz. The German had the best chances of the first half: a second too late to connect with a Mudryk cross on 32 minutes and a post clipped in the last moments of the first half.

Yet this remains a Chelsea team that is largely unfamiliar with one another and it shows. James, who has played just once, in December, since that knee injury against Milan on Oct 11, was substituted after the hour. Mudryk was replaced by Madueke, the England Under-21 from PSV Eindhoven, who was more involved than the Ukrainian. Mudryk’s home debut just passed him by. Potter has lots of options, just not much of a coherent team into which to fit them.

He brought on Cesar Azpilicueta, then later Raheem Sterling and then another January signing, the forward Datro Fofana from Molde in Norway who – like Aubemeyang – does not have a place in the Champions League squad. It can be hard to organise these players into whatever hierarchy exists for the Chelsea manager, if indeed there is one yet.

Fofana had a sight of goal on 79 minutes when Fulham squeezed up and he took Gallagher’s ball over the top past Bernd Leno and Issa Diop. As Leno recovered Fofana had a shy at goal that might not have been on target. Either way, it did not make it past Tim Ream. The struggle goes on for Potter to decide what exactly this Chelsea side might look like.

Chelsea vs Fulham: as it happened

10:39 PM

Graham Potter speaks (again)

There's disappointment because we didn't win. We could all sense the excitement and positivity. There was the lack of connection you could see in a team with players coming back form injury, players coming in.

Reece [James], it was his first game for a while, Enzo [Fernandez] has had one day's training, Mischa [Mudryk] is getting up to speed. We were playing a team that knows what it's doing, defensively strong, well organised and with Mitrovic  always a handful. We have to be disappointed with the point but we're getting better as a team and will learn from the experience.

Mudryk has had a heavy cold this week and felt heavy legged at half-time. Noni [Madueke] came on and did well and Benoit [Badiashile] has settled in well with Thiago Silva so there are positives for us.

I can't give you a timescale but our job is to improve. That's the coaching process.

Aubameyang is still part of our plans. Pierre's with us for the rest of the season and he'll be fighting for his place.

It's a fantastic challenge here, I'm enjoying it and I'm excited.

10:21 PM

Marco SIlva speaks

We knew it would be a tough game but to take four points from six from Chelsea is a fantastic achievement. Our shape and organisation has been our behaviour throughout the season.

Pereira is a key player for us. The way he starts a press. We set up in a 4-4-2 and Mitro and Pereira start the press for us and off the ball he does a fantastic job for us.

Willian is still a great player, so important for us on and off the pitch. He is a top, top player. He knows everything about the game and we are giving him the opportunity to be incisive in attack. He always trains with a smile on his face.

Palhinha has been massive for us. Joao has settled really well. I knew what we needed in that position, a player that covers every space, a player who works so hard off the ball. There are areas he needs to adapt, on the ball, we know he will.

10:07 PM

Both sides move up a place

10:04 PM

Willian speaks

It was a brilliant night, we played well with the ball and without the ball. We deserved more than a point, I think but it's hard to come here and play against Chelsea.

It was a special night to be back at the Bridge. I spent seven years here I was very happy. I am very happy at Fulham. It was a good reception by the Chelsea fans who I respect a lot. My kids were supporting Chelsea tonight.

09:55 PM

Full time Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Couple of attempts by Madueke and Sterling to pile through the box are thwarted and Badiashile, seeing the ref's whistle in his lips, swipes a 40-yard shot high, wide and hideous.

Chelsea are totally toothless. All that investment and no goals.

09:53 PM

90+5 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Chelsea earn a corner from the free-kick and Fulham make a hash of a clearance when Vinicius has the madcap idea of dribbling it out of a packed box. The ball bobbles to his right for Sterling on the left of the area and he bends a right foot cross towards the top right corner. Leno's quick feet take him across the goalline to pluck it out of the sky.

09:51 PM

90+4 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Sterling beats three men in some centre-circle pinball and hares towards the box. Wilson steps in off the wing to foul him in the tactical/professional/cynical manner.

09:50 PM

90+2 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Thiago Silva, immense tonight, heads out the corner but Fulham work it back to the D where Palhinha tries a roundhouse volley at a ball that spits up high. He gets it up and over Fernandez's attempt at a block but his shit drifts past the left post.

09:48 PM

90 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Reed is given a free-kick when chased by Havertz even though he tripped himself. Fulham make two subs before the free-kick from 30 yards. Cairney and Carlos Vinicius replace Mitrovic and Reed.

Five minutes of stoppage time are signalled.

09:46 PM

88 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Carlos Vinicius, the matchwinner at the Cottage, is getting stripped for Fulham.

09:44 PM

86 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Havertz runs into congestion and the impeccable Tete when he tries to work some space in the box. When Fernandez sprays a pass into touch he is greeted with a gleeful if inevitable 'What a waste of money!' from the Fulham fans.

09:41 PM

84 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Chelsea substitution No5 brings on Chilwell for Cucurella. Marco Silva is yellow-carded for something he said to official No4.

09:40 PM

82 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Harrison Reed gives the linesman some verbal laldy after he awards a goalkick when he thinks it should be a corner.

09:39 PM

80 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Big chance from Fofana when Gallagher arrows a chip over the inside-right lane. Leno misjudges the flight, comes out of the box to deal with it but is beaten to it by Fofana who rounds him and lifts his head to side-foot a finish into an open goal. But he didn't put enough force into the shot and Ream raced back to hack it off the line.

09:37 PM

78 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Madueke is sent down the right by Havertz and fizzes over a cross intended for Fofana. Ream slides in to block but the ball is diverted out to Gallagher who wraps his instep around a right-foot shot from 20 yards that billows the side-netting. Bend but not enough.

09:33 PM

76 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

David Fofana also comes on for his PL debut, replacing Mount, I think.

09:32 PM

75 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Double Fulham substitution: Harry Wilson and Manor Solomon come on for Willian and De Cordova-Reid. Willian gets a huge ovation from fans of his current and former clubs.

09:31 PM

73 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Fernandez whistles a 20-yard shot from the right of the D past the left post. He caught that so sweetly had it been on target it would have been a proper purler.

09:29 PM

71 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Mitrovic spies Kepa off his line and goes to chip him from long range, maybe a yard inside the Chelsea half. Arrizabalaga back-pedals in a bit of a flap and claws it back from the bar. A minute earlier Willian had used all his skill to drive into the box down the left but lacked the old pace to fashion a shot for himself so tried to bend it to Pereira with the outside of his right foot but couldn't find him.

09:27 PM

69 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Not sure Chelsea have had a strike on goal yet. This one hit the post, but of course doesn't count.

Kai Havertz of Chelsea shoots against Bernd Leno of Fulham during the Premier League match between Chelsea - Robin Jones/Getty Images
Kai Havertz of Chelsea shoots against Bernd Leno of Fulham during the Premier League match between Chelsea - Robin Jones/Getty Images

09:24 PM

67 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Chelsea corner, looped in by Gallagher from the right. Thiago Silva meets it but Mitrovic stood his ground and used his strength to hold him off meaning he couldn't get a proper run and leap at the header or impart any real power on it at all.

09:22 PM

65 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Good from Sterling taking the ball 40 yards out, back to goal, then spinning and sprinting towards the 18-yard line and tapping a pass through for Mount ... just too far.

Robinson gambles to spurt ahead of Madueke and pick off a pass intended for him then gallop upfield. He can't get beyond Azpilicueta but when they recycle the ball Gallagher brings down Palhinha.

09:19 PM

63 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Tete has been a beast at the far post tonight and again heads away a cross from Madueke that Sterling would have met with a bicycle kick which, instead, he has to abort.

09:18 PM

61 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Double Chelsea substitution: Sterling and Azpilicueta replace Ziyech and James who is being nursed back after those injuries. Sterling goes to the left, Madueke switches to the right.

09:17 PM

59 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Willian skitters jinks in from the left, getting back into his stride at full pelt to drive into the box and pull it back for Palhinha whose first effort is blocked and the second flies over.

09:15 PM

58 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Mount boots Tete who had successfully shielded the ball from him and turned away almost contemptuously.

09:13 PM

56 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Gallagher's corner doesn't beat the first man and the sigs of disquiet begin to grow in the crowd. They're not buying Potterball yet.

09:12 PM

54 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

James and Gallagher work a slick one-two down the right and James hares round Ream to take the return and stand up a cross to the back post. Madueke is closing in on it but Tete reads the flight and heads it behind before the sub can get there.

09:10 PM

52 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Bad tackle from Pereira on Cucurella, sliding with the studs, earns him a yellow card. VAR decides to take a look to see if it should be worth double the punishment but concurs with the ref.

09:08 PM

50 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Fulham pile up the right after Dip wins the ball and keeps going to distract a midfielder. De Cordova-Reid takes it forward then whips over a cross with his right that is only inches away from Mitrovic. Thiago Silva uses all his strength and nous to make sure of that.

09:06 PM

48 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Gary Neville thinks Mudryk must be injured. No news on that. Ziyech almost does himself a mischief by standing on the ball.

09:05 PM

46 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Willian starts by dribbling 25 yards, driving between Gallagher and Fernandez to the right of the D before thumping a low shot that Kepa saves solidly.

Fernandez has made a decent start ...

Stats - Sky Sports
Stats - Sky Sports

09:01 PM

Chelsea give Noni Madueke his debut

He's coming on for Mudryk who was anonymous in the first half after sparkling in that cameo at Anfield.

08:50 PM

Half-time Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Fulham are a very good side and are playing well, hounding Chelsea's defenders and midfield but the home side's centre-backs have been up to the task so far. Chelsea are in getting to know you mode but there have been flashes of brilliance from Ziyech, Fernandez and Thiago Silva with their long passes, some clever runs from Havertz and Mount's drive down the inside-left channel.

08:47 PM

45 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Superb pass from Ziyech from the centre-circle over Tete's head into the box. Havertz's clever run allows him to meet the ball but Leno races out meaning Chelsea's false nine has to try to lob it over the keeper, which he does but the ball crashes into the post, as does Issa Diop as he raced back to try to hook it off the line.

08:45 PM

43 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Kepa does a Kepa and gives the ball straight to Fulham when attempting a pass out to Cucurella but Thiago Silva bails him out.

08:44 PM

41 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Velvety touch from Mitrovic in the centre-circle followed by a nimble turn and a chipped pass out to the right to Pereira who would have been free to run at Badiashile with Cucurella bypassed by Mitrovic's arrow. But he scuffs his trap and knocks the ball into touch. Marco Silva's hands fly up to his head in exasperation.

Fulham's Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic argues with the linesman during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Fulham - GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images
Fulham's Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic argues with the linesman during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Fulham - GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

08:39 PM

38 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Tete, not for the first time, burns off Cucurella and whips over a cross to the back-post for Willian, who had made a lung-bursting 50 yard run. He heads it back across goal to Mitrovic but Badiashile is tight enough to force him to miscontrol it and Chelsea scramble it away. Cucurella could do with some help from Mudryk.

08:37 PM

36 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Fernandez sets Ziyech on his way having tackled Pereira and sprayed a pass up the inside-right. Ziyech took it in his stride and entered the box but Ream wisely kept him on his right foot and he sliced his finish with his swinger.

08:35 PM

34 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Havertz gets the better of Ream to win a bouncing ball but used his hand which would have meant his goal, had he not shanked his finish, being chalked off.

08:33 PM

33 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Very difficult chance for Havertz on the lunge after Mount skated down the left and zipped over a cross. Ream telescoped out a leg and got a vital touch with his toe to take it ahead of Havertz, too far for an easy finish, Havertz did reach it but the ball spun off his toe and screwed wide.

08:31 PM

31 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Thiago Silva seems to be relishing the aerial battle against a team set up for Mitrovic. And winning it so far with a couple of towering headers and a classy chest trap.

08:30 PM

29 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Mount makes the crowd groan when Havertz flicks the ball round the corner in the centre-circle up the left. Had it been Mudryk he would have been on his (motor)bike but Mount didn't have the pace to burn off Tete so checked inside and tried a crossfield pass to James. Robinson picks it off.

08:27 PM

27 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Chelsea see off the inswinging, dipping corner and Chelsea regroup, working the ball upfield until De Cordova-Reid halts their progress with a shove on Mudryk.

08:26 PM

25 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Gary Neville makes a decent point that Chelsea are showing the lack of fluency you would expect from a remodelled side.

Palhinha, one of the players of the season, picks off a pass on the right and clips a pass infield for Pereira who takes it back to goal with a brilliant touch to set up a half-volley on the turn which he thunders down towards the left post. Kepa dives to turn it behind smartly. Good save.

08:23 PM

23 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Palhinha is booked for a sliding, late tackle on Mount, clipping his right ankle. Moments earlier Thiago Silva and Badiashile show their understanding by closing off Mitrovic who was trying to bullock down the middle.

08:22 PM

21 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Gallagher does head off on a 20-yard dribble down the inside left but when he switches it out to the right Fulham regroup. Chelsea seem penned back at 30 yards but Thiago Silva's vision sees something on that no one else does and chips it towards the penalty spot. Havertz hits the ignition and breaks off Diop and Ream ... but went too early, ending up offside. He messed up the flicked finish, too.

08:19 PM

18 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Fulham are pressing the Chelsea back four and the duo of Fernandez and Gallagher well. Chelsea look as though they need Kovacic's dribbling to escape it.

08:17 PM

16 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Leno, who has been named man of the match three times already this season, comes out assertively to pluck a Ziyech right-wing left-foot special, curving in towards the back post, out of the sky.

08:15 PM

14 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Gallagher gets his head up 25 yards out and scoops an outswinging cross to the far post from the right of the D. Mudryk, legs like Roadrunner (Meep! Meep!) almost gets there by sprinting round Tete but the bend defeats him.

Enzo Fernandez - Andrew Kearns/Getty Images
Enzo Fernandez - Andrew Kearns/Getty Images

08:13 PM

12 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Mitrovic blows his top at the lino when he is penalised for a tussle with Cucurella.

08:12 PM

10 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Chance for Fulham at the near post when Willian stands Cucurella up, shimmies and then works the ball back to Tete. The right-back arcs a cross to De Cordova-Reid whose flick is put behind for a corner.

Fulham take it short and waste it.

08:10 PM

8 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Good work from Mount to flick a one-two with Havertz on halfway before scurrying off up the inside-left channel. Mudryk is showing for the ball to his left and on the 18-yard line and he plays the pass. But Tete reads his intentions and nips in to intercept before Mudryk can flash a shot away.

08:08 PM

6 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Robinson goes on a 50 yard run from the halfway line, or rather 51 yards as he ends up taking it out of play before dragging a cross back through the six-yard box. Impressive pace and strength, though, to roll James who got too tight to him.

08:06 PM

Matt Law reports from Stamford Bridge

Two huge Reece James flags were unveiled at either end of Stamford Bridge ahead of kick-off to mark the right-back’s return from injury.

08:05 PM

4 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Gallagher drops between the lines of Fulham's defence and the pivot of Reed and Palhinha to take the throw and shift it to the left to Mount who brings it forward and threads a pass up to Mudryk. He takes it into the box and shapes to shoot with his right but then dinks a pass down the outside for Mount that is intercepted. He would have been better off letting fly himself.

08:03 PM

2 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Quite start, exchanging throw-ins over on the far side. Fernandez slips inside and sweeps a pass over to the right for Reece James. Willian tracks him all the way back and tackles him parallel with the 18-yard line to put the ball out for another throw.

08:02 PM

1 min Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Chelsea kick off, defending the shed. Mudryk, with his butterfly neck tattoos, is on the left. Fulham earn a throw-in on the left.

07:59 PM

Out come the teams

Chelsea in royal blue with, like Dirk, dinky white socks. Fulham are in their white home shirts, black shorts but have had to change the hue of their hose from white to black.

07:55 PM

The players are in the tunnel

Which can only mean:

07:54 PM

Very good interview on Sky with Howard Webb

Gary Neville, Karen Carney and Jamie Carragher interrogated the new PGMOL big chief on VAR and the standard of refereeing in the top flight. You can watch it here. More accountability basically plus a move towards showing VAR videos to the crowd rather than keeping us all in the dark when at a match.

07:39 PM

Matt Law reports from Stamford Bridge

Chelsea’s co-controlling owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali are due to be in the Stamford Bridge stands to see Mudryk and Fernandez.

07:30 PM

Matt Law reports from Stamford Bridge

Chelsea manager Graham Potter has named Mykhailo Mudryk and British record signing Enzo Fernandez in his starting line-up tonight. Both players were cheered on to the pitch to warm-up ahead of their home debuts. Hakim Ziyech, who was due to join Paris Saint-Germain on deadline day, is also starting.

07:14 PM

No Aubameyang on the bench

And no signs of Fulham's new signings Sasa Lukic and Cedric Soares.

07:11 PM

Your teams in black and white

Chelsea  Kepa; James, Thiago, Badiashile, Cucurella; Gallagher, Fernandez, Mount; Ziyech, Havertz, Mudryk.
Substitutes Bettinelli, Azpilicueta, Chilwell, Chalobah, Koulibaly, Chukwuemeka, Madueke, Sterling, D Fofana.

Fulham Leno; Tete, Diop, Ream, Robinson; Palhinha, Reed; De Cordova-Reid, Pereira, Willian, Mitrovic.
Substitutes  Rodak, Kurzawa, Tosin, Duffy, Cairney, Wilson, Solomon, James, Vinicius.

Referee Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire).

07:07 PM

Graham Potter speaks

Nobody can see into the future but we've tried to sign players of a certain profile, to compete in a few years' time and to compete right now, too.  Every day is a time to learn, you have to pick yourself up and go after defeats, that's part of the development process.

I'm really excited. I started 12 years ago, not on the bottom, a couple of rungs beneath the bottom. I appreciate this journey and what got me here.

I don't make decisions about finances. My job is as a head coach to support the club. to make sure we sign the right profile pf player. It's a club decision, a club process but we have to be aligned.

That's the challenge to keep [all 33 players] happy. There will be healthy competition. We can't win with 11 but 33 perhaps is pushing it a bit.

07:03 PM

Chelsea seem to want Fernandez to be referred to as 'Enzo'

Not on my watch.

07:01 PM

Fernandez and Mudryk start for Chelsea

05:32 PM


The minute they walked in the joint ... Good evening and welcome to live coverage of the west London derby between Chelsea and Fulham which begins, as I think I may have pointed out before, with Chelsea in the bronze medal position in west London (10th, behind Fulham in seventh and Brentford in eighth) for the first time since 1982-83 when they finished 18th in Division Two, Fulham were fourth and QPR won promotion in first place.

Twenty-three days ago Fulham beat Chelsea at the Cottage 2-1, Willian and Carlos Vinicius scoring for the home side, Kalidou Koulibaly for Graham Potter's team who tried to scrape their way back following Joao Felix's red card on debut. The on-loan Atletico Madrid striker serves the third match of his ban for that venomous foul on Kenny Tete tonight but the rest of their recruits from January's plutocratic trolley dash are available bar Andrey Santos, who is at the Libertadores U20 championship with Brazil, and Malo Gusto, who is staying on at Lyon until the end of the season. Potter, though, should be able to call on Enzo Fernandez, the costliest player in British football history, Noni Madueke, Mykhailo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, who played well on debut at Palace and again at Anfield, and David Fofana.  The odd thing about the £500m+ they've spent is that they haven't addressed the issue between the nets where the kindest thing I could say about Kepa Arrizabalaga and Edouard Mendy is that they are prone to error.

Enzo Fernandez - Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images
Enzo Fernandez - Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

One player who might not be in the squad tonight is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has had a horrible year, from losing the Arsenal captaincy, being bombed out by Mikel Arteta, finding a haven in Barcelona and then being told that he was no longer wanted, that brutal robbery, being signed by his mentor Thomas Tuchel who was sacked merely six days later. And now he has been omitted from the Champions League squad, meaning he can't play against Dortmund in the Westfalenstadion that adored him on Feb 15, the clear implication being that Chelsea want rid of him. If he is in the squad, it will be the strangest of all signals from Chelsea, a total head-fudger for the player.

At his pre-match press conference, Potter, who has a victory over Palace and a draw with Liverpool in the bank after that defeat by Fulham, said Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Raheem Sterling are all available, though none of them ready for 90 minutes. Fulham, by contrast with Chelsea's seven injury absentees (Armando Broja, Christian Pulisic, Ngolo Kante, Wesley Fofana, Mateo Kovacic, Denis Zakaria and Mendy) have only Neeskens Kebano unavailable as they try to win at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 1979 and complete their first ever double.

Marco Silva has new signings Sasa Lukic and Cedric Soares to call on after two binary defeats by Newcastle and Tottenham following their victory over Chelsea. Silva, surely a candidate for manager of the season, was asked at his press conference about his memories of Stamford Bridge and spoke poignantly of his first visit.

"I will tell you one memory for me that was the saddest one, but one that comes clear in my mind, was Ryan Mason had a bad injury when I was in Hull," he said. "It comes to mind because it was probably my saddest day as a manager in football.

"It was that evening, Chelsea against Hull, [memorable] because of what happened to Ryan Mason. Each game is a different story and we have to write our own story tomorrow."

Mason tried to make a comeback from the fractured skull but was forced to retire 12 months later, aged just 26. Since then he has moved into coaching, becoming the youngest manager in the Premier League at the age of 29 when he stood in as interim Tottenham head coach in 2021 after the sacking of Jose Mourinho.