London: Top meets bottom in the Premier League on Saturday when leaders Chelsea make the short trip across west London to Fulham looking to consolidate their title bid and increase the relegation worries of their neighbours.
With third-placed Manchester City playing Sunderland in the Capital One (League) Cup final at Wembley on Sunday, Chelsea can increase their advantage over Manuel Pellegrini’s side to six points.
Jose Mourinho hit out at the Premier League schedule, saying his players have not had a chance to recover from their midweek Champions League match. The Premier League leaders drew 1-1 with Galatasaray in Turkey on Wednesday but have not been able to train ahead of the west London Derby.
“We arrived back at 6 am in the morning. Yesterday (Thursday) we didn’t train and we didn’t train today (Friday),” Mourinho said. “We don’t play Sunday which would be difficult, we play Saturday which makes it even more difficult,” he added.
Chelsea top the table with 60 points from 27 games, one more than Arsenal (59), who are away at Stoke on Saturday, and three clear of City, who have 57 from 26 games. Liverpool are fourth on 56.
Mourinho’s side last lost to Fulham in 2006, the year they won their second successive league title, and they drew 1-1 at Galatasaray in the Champions league on Wednesday.
“We just want to try to keep our position and not give it up for free to our opponents,” said the Portuguese, whose side went top three weeks ago. “We have to fight, we have to play. Every victory keeps us there, every defeat or draw we lose our position.”
Second-placed Arsenal, who beat Sunderland 4-1 in their last outing, travel to Stoke having found wins hard to come by at the Britannia Stadium. Arsene Wenger has not seen his side beat Stoke in their last three trips to the Potteries and the Frenchman will be without left back Kieran Gibbs who has a hamstring injury.
Liverpool continue to breathe down the necks of the top three and travel to the south coast to play Southampton on Saturday, with in-form Daniel Sturridge bidding to find the net in his ninth consecutive Premier League match. “He looks like he can score in every single game,” manager Brendan Rodgers said of Sturridge after he scored twice against Swansea on Sunday.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino has triumphed over Liverpool in the last two meetings between the sides, but after slumping to a 3-1 defeat against West Ham United they have now won once in their last six games.