Loftus Road, London
September 15, 2012; 15:00 GMT
Chelsea travel to Loftus Road to take on Queen Park Rangers this Saturday, in a Derby that will see no love lost between the two sets of supporters. It’s been two weeks since Chelsea registered their third win in three games to move to the top of the Premier League table, but that victory against Newcastle appears to have come ages ago. Such is the effect of ill-timed International breaks! The last time Chelsea took to the field was against Atletico in the UEFA Super Cup and it’s fair to say that they were mauled by El Tigre, Ramadel Falcao. Roberto Matteo will hope that it was in fact the friendly nature of the fixture that failed to bring out the best in his men rather than anything else.
With 9 points after three games, The Blues sit alone at the top of the table; only club to have an untarnished record in the league, but these are very, very early days. The last time these two sides met was in April at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea destroyed QPR to register a 6-1 win, with Fernando Torres, of all players, scoring a hattrick. However, the last time these two teams played at Loftus Road in the league, it was QPR who defeated Andre Villas-Boas’ team 1-0, after the away side had been reduced to 9 men in the first half and not before Chelsea had come menacingly close to taking something from the game. This is a game remembered more for the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand saga rather than for the football that transpired on the pitch. With the game slipping away from their grasps, the Blues attacked relentlessly, with even Terry and Luiz sometimes appearing as forwards, as Mikel sat behind to cover for them. The goal, however, never came.
Mark Hughes’ team has thus far conceded 9 goals in three game, while scoring twice. They hold the worst record in the league, and had suffered a humiliating 5-0 defeat at the hands of Swansea on opening day. QPR have signed quite a lot of players in the transfer window, most notable ones being Esteban Granero, Junior Hoilett, Julio Cesar and Park Ji-Sung amongst others and have brought in Fabio on loan from United. However, they are yet to play as a team, which will, understandably, take time. QPR will hope that Hughes would have drawn some tangible inferences from how Atletico exploited the chinks in the Chelsea armor, while Hughes will himself hope that the result will give his men motivation to get something out of this game.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Queens Park Rangers
Mark Hughes is fortunate to have a fully fit squad at his disposal for the game against Chelsea, with only Samba Diakite unavailable, as he has traveled to France because of depression. Furthermore, a busy transfer window has resulted in a plethora of new players in the squad, all eager to fight it out for a starting place in the team. Surely, Hughes would be a happy man, right?
Anyway, as far as team shape is concerned, QPR are expected to leave Johnson on the bench and start with a 4-5-1 shape with Bobby Zamora leading the line. Hoilett and one of Taraabt or Wright-Phillips are expected to start out wide, with Granero, Ji-Sung and Faurlin playing in midfield. The defense will comprise of Ferdinand and Mbia in the centre, with Fabio playing at left-back and ex-Chelsea player, Jose Bosingwa, starting on the right. Robert Green is expected to retain his place in the starting line-up, ahead of Julio Cesar.
In the game against Man City, Hughes resorted to long-ball tactics, with Zamora being the clear target upfront. Furthermore, QPR have talented wingers in Hoilett and Taraabt, who’ll look to beat defenders in one-on-one situation with their pace and trickery but their reluctance to help out defensively can leave their full-backs exposed to what Chelsea will throw at them from wide positions. QPR’s defense has always been weak, and the additions of Bosingwa and Fabio will not make a substantial difference to their cause. From the statistical analysis at Whoscored.com and observing them defend in the Premier League, they appear weak against skillful players and are likely to foul in dangerous areas; considering what Eden Hazard has done in his first three games for Chelsea, QPR will have to be at the top of their game to overcome such weaknesses.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-5-1): Green; Fabio, Mbia, Ferdinand, Bosingwa; Granero, Ji-Sung, Faurlin, Hoilett, Taraabt; Zamora
Roberto di Matteo may have to do without the services of both John Terry and Ashley Cole, as their fitness remains a concern, while Marko Marin, who’s resumed training, isn’t ready to take the field yet. Furthermore, Chelsea had given Juan Mata some much-needed break and the Spaniard is due to arrive to Cobham only tomorrow, so he may not start this game but will make the bench in any case. Two more players who will not be involved tomorrow are Essien and Meireles, having left Chelsea for Real Madrid and Fenerbahçe respectively.
Chelsea will start the game in their 4-2-3-1 formation, with Petr Cech in goal and Cahill, Luiz, Ivanovic and Bertrand in defence. Lampard and Mikel are expected to resume their work in the pivot. In case Mata isn’t available, Chelsea can start Hazard, Oscar and Moses in the third band of attack, behind Torres. If Cole is available, Bertrand may start ahead of him on the left flank to keep Taraabt in check, with Hazard in the centre and Moses on the right; however, the absence of Mata’s creativity on the left will more or less rule out a starting berth for Ramires (defensive winger) on the right flank, as di Matteo prefers balance in the third band.
Lampard hasn’t played all that well this season, despite his two goals. His positional indiscipline has put pressure on Chelsea through the centre and has made Mikel’s job all that more difficult. Di Matteo may look to give Romeu and/or Ramires a run in the pivot, if the game is heading towards a comfortable win, as it’s imperative to evaluate all central midfield options before facing sterner tests, namely those against Juventus and Arsenal this month. Furthermore, with Lampard having played two back to back games for England during the break, he isn’t likely to play the entire 90 minutes anyway.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Bertrand; Mikel, Lampard; Oscar, Hazard, Moses; Torres
- Chelsea have won their last 4 matches in the Premier League
- Chelsea have scored at least 2 goals in each of those wins
- QPR have conceded 9 goals in three games this season
- QPR are yet to win a game this season
Player To Watch Out For
The last time Torres played against Queens Park Rangers, he scored a hattrick. Against Newcastle, he played decently well throughout the 90 minutes, winning a penalty, combining well with Hazard and scoring a goal reminiscent of his glory days at Liverpool. There’s enough reason to keep a close eye on what the Spaniard does this weekend. The fact that QPR aren’t all that good defensively makes his case all that stronger.
Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Chelsea
The match is expected to be emotionally intense, and Chelsea will come under quite a lot of pressure from the home fans, especially if John Terry plays. Nonetheless, the sheer quality within the ranks at Chelsea should be enough to overcome QPR and their fans at Loftus Road.