Chelsea a different side under Di Matteo - Game preview - Chelsea (h)

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Frank Lampard of Chelsea and Moussa Dembele of Fulham tussle for the ball during the Carling Cup Third Round match between Chelsea and Fulham at Stamford Bridge on September 21, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

As Dave Kidd of The People quite proficiently pointed out ahead of Monday evening's South West London derby, Fulham actually head the table of the London Derby League with eleven points. And, to add another layer of icing, guess who's bottom? Yes, it's Chelsea.

For the most part, you could blame Andre Villas-Boas for their cosmic decline over the course of this season but the club was still littered with such boundless quality that you have to feel that even Mike Bassett could at least make some sort of assault on the title. No such attempt has materialised, however, and Roberto Di Matteo has been left with the scraps of what has been an arduous campaign and in all fairness, he is making the most of it. The Italian has led them through two Champions League stages and has seemingly reinvigorated a deflated Chelsea. Perhaps, then, the obstacle they will provide at Craven Cottage will be greater than some would have feared barely two months ago.

This has always been a fixture touted as adverse more by Fulham fans than it has by Chelsea followers but, this season at least, the two find themselves closer than usual. Only five places separate the two sides and, almost certainly, it's fair to say there is more contented faces at Craven Cottage right now than at Stamford Bridge.

And, as Queens Park Rangers are well aware, Fulham are enjoying a good season on the local front.

However good the omens may appear for the Cottagers, though, the Blues travel this short distance across London in quite sterling form. They've won their last four and have only lost once in ten. If you read a little closer, however, and maybe the threat is reduced. Their 2-1 win over Wigan on Saturday was closely fought - and fraught with controversy - while their recent run in has been fairly meagre. We'll provide a sterner test than Birmingham City and Leicester City, that's for sure.

Fulham are definitely enjoying one of their better spells of the year, having won twice in a row and claiming a three goal margin, away from home, in their last outing against Bolton. Before that, three straight defeats had seemingly taken the wind out of Martin Jol's sails but the return to form has been well timed and incredibly apt. A top ten finish is well within reach.

When we met Chelsea earlier in the season, we left the Bridge with a point as Clint Dempsey pegged the home side back. Last year at the Cottage, the home fans witnessed a stalemate.

The worry for Di Matteo ahead of Monday's game will be the fitness of trio Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry, all three of whom will be assessed before the game. Ramires is ill and could sit out too while the manager will look at making changes after playing merely 48 hours before.

Jol will have a similar problem with his charges having kicked off at three on Saturday, but he also has concerns over Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Murphy. Both missed the trip to Bolton but could be in contention here. Bryan Ruiz is out for the rest of the season after suffering a suspected broken foot. Zdenek Grygera, Steve Sidwell and Andrew Johnson will play no part while Orlando Sa will have to prove his fitness.

Predicted line-up: Schwarzer; Riise, Hangeland, Hughes, Kelly; Kacaniklic, Dembele, Diarra, Murphy, Duff; Dempsey

Score prediction: Fulham 1-1 Chelsea

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