Rafa Benitez needs to put some points on the board fast if he is to ever win over the Chelsea fans whose animosity towards his interim appointment was made perfectly clear before, during and after the Blues uninspiring 0-0 draw with Manchester City.
Masterminding a win in the west London derby will definitely aid his cause and a price of 4/9 says Fulham will be the first side Chelsea beat under the Spaniard’s stewardship.
Their record against the Cottagers in recent meetings, however, indicates that Benitez might have to wait a little longer to get off the mark.
Each of the last four renewals have ended with the spoils shared and Chelsea didn’t exactly look like a team capable of ripping any defence apart against City so more of the same could be served up in this clash.
Fulham lack the rearguard acumen the Premier League champions have in reserve, but with the hosts low on confidence and their fans in a far from supportive mood, they stand a good chance of picking up a point at Stamford Bridge if they can frustrate their neighbours in the early exchanges.
With the Blues five points off the title race pace, Benitez can’t afford too many more slip ups if he wants to keep the job beyond the end of the season. This means a win at either West Ham or Sunderland, if not both, is an imperative before his side jet off to the World Club Championship.
Upton Park can be backed at 4/1 to be the venue that witnesses Rafa’s first three points in the Chelsea dugout, but with the Irons proving they can match the finest the top-flight has to offer on their own patch, Sunderland are a far better bet to be the first casualties of the former Liverpool boss’ reign at the Bridge.
The Blues have won on each of their last seven trips to Wearside and with the Black Cats struggling in every aspect of the game at the moment, if Benitez remains winless beyond his trip to the Stadium of Light he can surely forget about getting the job permanently.
Elsewhere, a price of 50/1 is available for those who fancy Chelsea’s wait for a Premier League win to stretch into the New Year, while it’s 80/1 that he rounds off 2012 with his first win at Everton.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date