Premier League Fulham vs Chelsea tip preview: Goals at a premium as Marco Silva eyes top six spot

Thursday's Premier League action sees buoyant Fulham entertain beleaguered Chelsea, and Tipstrr football expert Sergiu Baltuta weighs up both teams' prospects as the season's halfway point approaches.

If anybody had placed a bet at the beginning of the season that Fulham would be above Chelsea in the Premier League after 18 games, they might just have won a pretty penny from the bookies by now. 

The newly-promoted team from Craven Cottage have begun their season impressively under Marco Silva, and have been one of the most watchable teams in the Premier League, sitting seventh in the table with 28 points after 18 games, three points clear of Chelsea, who find themselves in a disappointing 10th place.

A major factor in this excellent start has been the sparkling form of Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has scored 11 goals and is the fourth-top scorer in the league.

Sadly for Fulham, the Serbian striker will be unavailable for this match as he is suspended following his fifth yellow card of the season in the game against Leicester, when he scored the winning goal for Fulham.

Neeskens Kebano is injured and will also be unavailable, but Layvin Kurzawa and Manor Solomon returned after injuries in the FA Cup and are available for this match.

After an excellent start that brought three consecutive Premier League wins, Graham Potter's Chelsea side have hit a rough patch, managing to win only one of their last eight games, failing to score in six of them and sliding down to their current mid-table position.

The season has turned into something of a rebuilding exercise for the team from Stamford Bridge, whose chances of qualifying for next season's Champions League now appear minimal.

However, the new leadership at the club seems to have faith in their new young manager, for whom they paid £20million in compensation to Brighton, and they have already started to make new transfers to improve the squad.

Bought from AS Monaco, central defender Benoit Badiashile won't be in the starting lineup yet, while this game also comes too soon for striker Datro Fofana, who was transferred from Molde.

No team in the top half of the Premier League has scored anywhere near as few as Chelsea's paltry 20-goal return, so Potter will be hoping that Portuguese international striker Joao Felix will hit the ground running after signing a £9.7million loan deal from Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

But even with the new transfers, Potter still has very few options as a never-ending injury crisis has hit Chelsea in the last few weeks. Full backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell are injured, as is central defender Wesley Fofana, while goalkeeper Edouard Mendy's broken finger keeps Kepa Arrizabalaga in the starting lineup despite a poor performance against Manchester City.

Factor in the long-term injuries of midfielders Ruben Loftus-Cheek and N'Golo Kante, the continued absence of Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic, and doubts about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and it's easy to see why Potter's team is struggling to find any rhythm this season.

On the plus side for Blues fans, Chelsea are undefeated in their last 21 games against Fulham, winning all of the last seven, and Chelsea's defence has leaked just four goals in their last 15 encounters with their London neighbours.

Despite their attacking woes, only the top three have conceded fewer than Chelsea's 19 goals so far, and that combined lack of goals at either end helps explain why eight of Chelsea's last nine Premier league games have produced fewer than 2.5 goals

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