QPR hope to arrest 'league's worst travellers' reputation by making very short journey
Since RDM replaced AVB, Chelsea have shaken off their identity crisis and are yet to lose at Stamford Bridge. They haven’t won a London league derby this season, however. QPR, meanwhile, may be in killer shape at Loftus Road, but their road form is appalling.
If Andre Villas-Boas happens to be watching this one, no doubt crouched down in front of his television, he may cast his mind back to the reverse fixture between these two, back on October 23 last year.
Heading into that match, Chelsea were flying, third in the table and just a single point behind Manchester United. An early Heidur Helguson penalty won the match for QPR, yet the damage was far greater for Chelsea than just three dropped points against their local rivals. Following the dismissals of Didier Drogba and Jose Bosingwa (and of course the far more serious problems ahead for John Terry), Chelsea’s season collapsed faster than the aforementioned Ivorian in the penalty area.
Successive home defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool followed, and their season never really got going again. At least, not until the recent inspired managerial switch.
For Roberto Di Matteo, far more than revenge is at stake. The Swi-talian’s own future is up for grabs, with his job prospects depending on whether he can successfully retain Chelsea’s Champions League place. If he fails, even FA Cup success next month is unlikely to erase the ‘Caretaker’ in front of his job title ahead of next season.
Rangers’ own ‘quest for fourth’ is to finish fourth from bottom of the table, and with a trip to title-chasing Man City on the final day, they could really do with a point here, ahead of a must-win match at home to Stoke next weekend.
Whilst their form of late has picked up dramatically, particularly against the top six, those successes have only arrived at home. Another defeat on the road in this one would equal Wolves’ 2011/12 Premier League record of six away defeats in a row.
Television attention will inevitably be focused on the pre-match handshakes, but expect even John Terry to be grinning during the post-match version. In spite of their midweek heroics Chelsea should just about have enough to prevail, but don’t expect it to be a thriller, given the rich spoils that both sides are playing for.