If Fulham against Chelsea is one of football's more one-sided local derbies, the home team at Craven Cottage this afternoon can rarely have gone into one of these West London ding-dongs with less of an inferiority complex.
Of 60 previous League meetings, Fulham have won only seven, losing five times as many. Yet from avoiding relegation on the final day of the previous season, they finished last May in the highest position, seventh, in the club's 130-year history, which is how they came to be playing European football on Thursday night for only the second season ever.
After a 3-1 victory over the Russians Amkar Perm, which would have looked handsome without the concession of an away goal near the end, their personable Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer summed up the new mood at a club that even former chairman and comedian Tommy Trinder used to make the butt of his jokes on 'Sunday Night At The London Palladium'.
On Sunday Afternoon At The Cottage, Schwarzer (pictured) believes, Fulham should show respect but not fear: "You're playing one of the best teams in the world so it's going to be a very tough game. You've got to go in with self-belief. We've won our first four competitive games this season so we've got to go in with a bit of confidence."
That derives as much from the memory of last season's home form as it does from this season's start. "We beat Man United, beat Arsenal, drew with Chelsea and lost very late on to Liverpool," he says. "That gives you confidence. We had a very good record at home last season, which will be difficult to emulate, but we're going to try our best to even better it. There's a couple of home games we felt we should never have lost. Our squad's growing slowly, that's going to give us extra legs."
Damien Duff is the latest addition to that squad and could prove as shrewd an acquisition as Schwarzer himself, whose experience and ability behind the defence helped cut the number of goals conceded from 60 two seasons ago to only 34.
Oddly, in rising from 17th to seventh, they scored only one more, and with Andy Johnson out for five weeks with a dislocated shoulder, a new striker is now a priority for manager Roy Hodgson.
For all their ambition, they are not in the market for a Nicolas Anelka or a Didier Drogba, whom Schwarzer would have been delighted to see leave London this summer.
"They're among the best I've played against. Anelka has touched on brilliance for a number of years and for the last couple of years has been outstanding, and Drogba – one side of me was hoping he'd leave the club! He's a world-class player and you've got that much respect for them.
"You know whenever you play them it's going to be very tough. We've got a big job on our hands but we believe with the right sort of commitment and organisation that we've shown and determination at home we might be able to sneak something."Reuse content