Derby Day At Stamford Bridge: Does This One Matter?

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Gabriel Obertan of Newcastle United battles with Matthew Briggs of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Fulham at St James' Park on August 28, 2011 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

Fulham visits Chelsea tomorrow. This usually signifies excitement and the exchange of some less-than-positive words between neighbors in London's southwest.

But tomorrow's match occurs in the third round of the Carling Cup. If recent history has proven anything, it's that most of the big Premier League sides care little for the Carling Cup unless they find that they've miraculously stumbled into the semi-finals with a reserve squad

While the cup may be of little concern for Chelsea,Martin Jol has acknowledged that it is perhaps Fulham's most likely route to silverware this season.

Jol:

"The Carling Cup is there for teams like Fulham to win. The FA Cup is won eight out of ten times by one of the top four sides. If you're going to win the Cup you've to play the best sides at some point.

"At some stage you have to play a team like Chelsea, even though it would have been nice to play them in the Final. Chelsea are also playing a lot of games at the moment so they will probably play different players."

More after the jump...

While Chelsea will definitely be making several changes, due to a calendar clogged with fixtures and a massive squad at their disposal, Fulham's rotating may not have the opportunity to be quite as wholesale.

For one, even though Fulham has a similarly clogged schedule, Jol does not have the wealth of depth that Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas does. Further, of Jol's squad, a number of players are injured, with Simon Davies, Bjorn Helge Riise and Andrew Johnson confirmed as out. Aaron Hughes and Dickson Etuhu should also be unavailable for selection, each battling their own injuries.

Jol had hoped to hand Rafik Halliche, who's loan move to Swansea was blocked at the last moment, a rare start, but he's battling a illness and may be unable to compete.

So, even though Jol will be rotating the squad some, it's hard to imagine he even has the capability to rotate it as much as he'd like.

I also find it hard to believe that he wouldn't want to take an earnest shot at knocking off any Chelsea squad, regardless of strength of experience. Sunday's result against Manchester City alleviated some of the tension growing upon him, but the early days have still not been easy on Jol.

A chance to not only build on Sunday, but to earn a positive result against Fulham's most hated rival could prove exceedingly tempting.

But there will most definitely be changes.

Jol:

"We've got another day to decide but there will be a lot of players involved on Wednesday night," said Jol. "It's not only about West Bromwich Albion this weekend - it's also about the games that we've already played.

"I involved my best players last Thursday against FC Twente and on Sunday they had another tough game against Manchester City. I have to make changes and I will do."

Matthew Briggs, Zdenek Grygera, Pajtim Kasami and the briefly-dropped Bryan Ruiz should all find themselves in the starting lineup. Marcel Gecov could also find himself on the field to start the game and there's an excellent change Orlando Sa will make his debut. Promising youngster Kerim Frei could find himself on the bench, though it's hard to imagine he'd be given a start under the circumstances.

That could all prove to be minor tinkering compared to what Chelsea sends out. Fulham are clearly the underdogs here, but Jol has a chance to earn an impressive early victory. Jol will make changes, but should have enough of his starts in the lineup and on the bench to give Fulham a real chance at progressing to the fourth round.

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