Not much more than two kilometres separate Chelsea and Fulham, but a much larger gap exists on the pitch between the Premier League's top and bottom sides entering Saturday's West London derby at Craven Cottage.
Jose Mourinho's league leaders make the short trek to the cozy, picturesque stadium along the Thames in the midst of a 12-match Premier League unbeaten run that includes nine victories. The Blues lead Arsenal by one point and Manchester City by three thanks in large part to the league's best defence, having conceded 21 times.
Fulham, in contrast, have yielded more than that total in their last nine matches. The Cottagers have shipped 24 goals in that span and are last in the league having conceded 59 with a minus-32 goal differential.
German taskmaster Felix Magath is the third manager in charge for Fulham this season and will make his home debut under daunting circumstances after his side were four minutes away from victory before settling for a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion last Saturday.
"We have only a few days together, you cannot change many things," Magath said. "I am really satisfied with the performance today."
Magath guided Bayern Munich to consecutive Bundesliga titles and also won a German title with Wolfsburg. He has a reputation for brutal training and fitness methods and has nicknames that include ''Torturer'' and ''Saddam.''
"Football in England is a little bit different from Germany but the game is the same and the players are the same so I think we go on and look forward, we have next week another chance to get three points and we will try to get them," Magath said.
Fulham have five defeats and two draws since their last Premier League win on New Year's Day over West Ham United.
Magath will likely reminisce back to his Bayern days when he looks at Mourinho's squad, which became the lone Premier League team not to lose among the four in the Champions League with Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Galatasaray.
Fernando Torres' ninth-minute opener was canceled out in the second half by the hosts, who controlled play over the final 45 minutes.
"In the second half they put pressure on us; they have powerful strikers and the full-backs attack a lot," Mourinho said. "We were still comfortable but we conceded a goal from a corner; that doesn't make me or the players happy, but we can't complain."
Mourinho made three changes from the side that won 1-0 over Everton last Saturday, with Torres, Ramires and Andre Schurrle replacing Samuel Eto'o, Oscar and Nemanja Matic.
Chelsea have eight wins and seven draws in their last 15 league meetings with Fulham since a 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage on March 19, 2006. The Blues have won the last two after five straight draws in the series, and Oscar and John Obi Mikel were on target in a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge on Sept. 21.
Fulham's top scorer is former Chelsea man Steve Sidwell, who has never scored in nine games against the Blues.
"We'll need a big performance from everyone," midfielder Ashkan Dejagah told Fulham's official site. "It's a huge game for the players and the fans. Chelsea have a great team this year and need the points as well. We'll have to fight for the points and we will see."
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- Craven Cottage