Sport
Football's return to South West London

What lies in store for south west London teams as Premier League and EFL return

By Eli Haidari
June 15 2020, 17:00

The Premier League and EFL return to south west London is only a couple of days away.

The Premier League’s Chelsea and Crystal Palace as well as Fulham and Queens Park Rangers in the Championship still have it all to play for.

European places are at stake, automatic promotion as well as recording highest points tallies for a season.

We look at the seasons so far for the four south west London teams, what is left to play for and the key games to look forward to.

Chelsea

With nine games left to play Chelsea currently occupy the vital fourth spot which would secure Champions League qualification.

Three points currently separate them from the closest of the chasing pack Manchester United, with surprises Wolves and Sheffield United trailing by a further two and Tottenham and Arsenal finding themselves six and seven points adrift.

After their trip to Aston Villa Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge, although Liverpool by this point may have clinched the title, City will pose a stern test nevertheless with their own sites on securing the runners up spot.

Games against Sheffield United and Liverpool further down the line could be crucial in their pursuit for European qualification and a final day test against Wolverhampton Wanderers could prove decisive.

The coronavirus pandemic has left the future of the current Champions League campaign in doubt but after a 1st leg 3-0 defeat at home to Bayern Munich, Chelsea’s progress looked unlikely.

The Blues do however have an FA Cup quarter final to look forward to against Leicester City on June 28 posing as a key chance to secure some silverware before the end of the Campaign.

Comfortable wins against Championship sides Nottingham Forest and Hull City before a 2-0 victory against Liverpool secured their spot in the last eight.

A strong trust in the youth system has enhanced Chelsea legend Frank Lampard’s bond with the fans in his debut season in the dugout. Those who have particularly caught the eye include Reece James and Mason Mount as well as Billy Gilmour bursting onto the scene before Covid-19 struck.

Reece James has established himself as Frank Lampard’s go to man in the right back position, displacing club captain Cesar Azpilicueta with two goals and two assists in all competitions.

Mason Mount played a crucial role under Frank Lampard at Derby last season which ended in a play-off final defeat to Aston Villa. On taking the reins at Chelsea this season, Lampard wasted no time in thrusting Mount into first team action with the midfielder registering six goals and four assists in the Premier League campaign so far.

His performances deservingly earned him his first caps at senior international level for England.

Consecutive Man of the Match performances for 18-year-old Billy Gilmour against Liverpool in the FA Cup and a resounding 4-0 win against Everton in the Premier League has thrown the young man into the spotlight.

The versatile midfielder played an influential role in both games, completing more passes than any other player on the pitch on his league debut.

Expect to see an awful lot more from the exciting young man during Chelsea’s finish to the campaign.     

Crystal Palace

No Premier League club was on a longer winning streak than the Eagles before the season was postponed and Palace will be hoping their pre-pandemic form will be carried into the remaining nine games of the season.

There can be no doubt that Jordan Ayew has been the stand-out man for Palace this season with all eight of his league goals proving crucial, comprising of five winners and three equalisers.

Palace’s number 9  has also contributed to a goal of the season contender after a fantastic individual effort earlier on in the season against West Ham to clinch all three points.

For a player who only managed one league goal last season and was bought for £2.5 million, it hasn’t been a bad season at all.

As crucial as Ayew has been in accumulating the points, the Eagles have Vicente Guita to thank in preserving them. The man between the sticks for Palace has nine clean sheets to his name so far, only two behind Burnley’s Nick Pope in top spot.

Guita has conceded 28 goals in 27 games, which in terms of goals conceded per 90 minuets puts him behind only Allison, David De Gea, Jordan Henderson, Kasper Schmeichel and Ederson.

A potential Euro 2020 call up was in the pipeline before the pandemic struck with the other two Spanish keepers in the league failing to cover themselves in too much glory this season.

For two men who were bought for a total of £2.5 million, they will play a vital role in Palace’s push for a top ten finish.

Currently in 11th on 39 points, Crystal Palace seem somewhat in limbo with a European spot seeming a step to far, and a healthy 12 point cushion from the drop zone minimises the chance of a potential relegation scrap.

Nevertheless, Roy Hodgson’s men are ten points adrift of their highest points accumulated over a Premier League Season and only a point off 9th spot which would be their highest finish to a Premier League campaign.

The Eagles have a series of tough games to finish the season, but positive results against the top six including an away win at Old Trafford and a hard fought 2-2 draw at City will provide them with plenty of optimism to finish the finish strongly.

A record points tally for the season could well and truly be on the cards.  

Fulham

Fulham kick the EFL off with a bang with a highly-anticipated west London derby against Brentford, who will be hoping to close the gap on the cottagers to just a single point with victory.

The west London derby scheduled for June 20 was supposed to go ahead over three months ago before the EFL was postponed, and marks the start of a jam packed run of fixtures including games against Leeds and West Bromwich Albion who occupy the automatic places.

Fulham will have to hit the ground running to make up lost ground on the top two

Back to back wins against Brentford and Leeds, and Fulham could theoretically find themselves within a point of top spot, however two defeats would all but end their chances of automatic promotion.

The Cottagers will be seeking revenge after Brentford came out victorious in their first meeting of the season at Griffin Park, and with a 2-1 victory at home to Leeds in the reverse fixture, they will be brimming with confidence.

Five games later and Fulham will travel to the Hawthorns. Could by this point automatic promotion be on the cards? A late surge for the title? A rich run of form leading up to their encounter against West Brom and it could well and truly be on.

With six games played and only nine points left to play for, Fulham against West Brom could have huge implications for the teams who move up to the Premier League next season.

Amongst the uncertainty of which way results will go for Fulham, one thing is for sure they will be hugely reliant on key men Aleksandar Mitrovic and club captain Tom Cairney for the remainder of the season. 

Cairney has eight league assists to his name and three goals so far and has played an instrumental role in Fulham’s midfield this season. There is no doubt his experience and composure will be vital.

With more goals like this from the club captain, things could be looking good for Fulham…

Mitrovic currently leads the race to finish as the Championship’s top goal scorer with 23 goals to his name.

The talisman was the silver lining to the Cottagers’ dismal Premier League campaign last season and they will be relying on him to add significantly to his tally so far this season to bounce Fulham straight back to England’s top flight division.

Queens Park Rangers

With 11 games to go QPR currently sit in 13th on 50 points and are undefeated in their last 6 league outings.

For Mark Warburton’s men it has been a steady season which has seen them distance themselves from any potential relegation scrap but too far off the pace to mount a serious promotion push.  

Nevertheless the 2019/20 season has seen eye-catching campaigns for the Anglo-Nigerian pair Bright Osayi-Samuel and Eberechi Eze.

Osayi-Samuel, the R’s Young Player of the Season for 19/20 has cracked on this campaign registering six goals and seven assists and has strengthened QPR on the flanks significantly.

As for Eberechi Eze, the silky forward has notched 12 goals and seven assists and looks capable, alongside Jordan Hugill of filling the boots of Nahki Wells who joined Bristol City in January. 

The R’s welcome Barnsley to The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on June 20 before one for the fans to look forward to, the west London Derby against Fulham.

QPR will be seeking revenge after a 2-1 defeat to the Cottagers in the reverse fixture earlier on in the season and earn the bragging rights before the campaign concludes.

Mark Warburton will also be hoping his side can overcome relegation-threatened Charlton. They failed to beat the fellow Londoners after an enthralling fixture ended in a 2-2 draw.

QPR’s attacking flare has been clear to see this season, with eye catching performances and resounding victories such as their third round 5-1 victory over Swansea City and an emphatic 6-1 league win over fellow Welsh Team Cardiff with Osayi-Samuel’s capabilities clear for everyone to see.

The QPR faithful will be hoping for more of the same in their final 11 outings to make the experience away from their beloved ground that much more enjoyable from their couches.

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