QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Stamford Bridge, London
January 2, 2013; 19:45 GMT
Chelsea will start the new year by welcoming West London rivals Queens Park Rangers to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening. Ever since QPR made a return to Premier League, these fixture have been intensely competitive, but for the last game at the Bridge that saw Chelsea register a thumping 6-1 win. Previously, despite playing in different leagues, there was no love lost between the two sets of supporters and after the Terry-Ferdinand fiasco, the rivalry has gone up by several notches.
Chelsea are in fine form at the moment and Rafa Benitez deserves to be praised for what he has accomplished in a short while. The team clearly is more balanced structurally and defensively much more secure. Their play is quite direct and with Fernando Torres finally playing like any decent striker should, goals aren’t hard to come. Chelsea have won their last four games in the league, scoring 14 and conceding merely twice, and are currently third on the table, 4 points behind Manchester City with a game in hand. Talks of winning the title can certainly wait, but if they continue in a similar manner, Champions League qualification for next season would be all but certain, in addition to maybe securing a cup or two.
QPR, on the other hand, are lying at the very bottom of the table and are under serious danger of getting relegated. They only had managed to stave off relegation on the final matchday of last season and their chances of doing an encore are looking bleaker by the day. Harry Redknapp had started his reign on a moderately positive note, with his team recording 6 points of his first six game in-charge, but have then gone on to lose three straight games; the last being a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool at home. Redknapp has previously saved Portsmouth in 2006 and had revived Tottenham’s fortunes after Juande Ramos, but QPR of today is a different matter altogether, unless he brings in a few fresh faces in January.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Petr Cech picked up a muscle injury in the game against Everton and had to be substituted; he is set to undergo a late medical but at the moment, it appears that Ross Turnbull will start in goal for Chelsea. John Terry is nearing his return but this game comes too soon for him to make a return, howsoever desperate he may be for playing against QPR. Oriol Romeu is another long term absentee, while Danny Sturridge is expected to be left out of the squad because of the perceived negotiations with Liverpool. John Obi Mikel will be again available for selection and may start alongside David Luiz in central midfield, as Frank Lampard may be given an off day, having played one full game a couple of days back.
The defense will bear a similar look, with Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic and Cole resuming from where they left off against Everton. Benitez has been pleased with the partnership of Cahill and Ivanovic and will continue with the same, at least till Terry returns. The pair has inspired enough confidence in him to continue with David Luiz in midfield. Against QPR, the manager may decide to forsake balance for attacking flair by picking up the trio of Mata, Hazard and Oscar; something he has rarely done since taking over the affairs at Chelsea. Fernando Torres will continue to lead the line.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Turnbull; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole; Mikel, Luiz; Mata, Hazard, Oscar; Torres
Harry Redknapp will be without the services of Dyer, Bosingwa, Zamora and Johnson for the short trip to Stamford Bridge, while Park Ji-Sung will undergo a late scan of his knee to determine his availability.
Redknapp is known more for his man-management skills than for his tactical prowess – and that’s exactly the need of the hour at QPR. Their main problem is the lack of commitment shown by the players, resulting in half-hearted performances. It appears they aren’t trying hard enough to turn things around; and the new manager understands this.
“I still think we’ll stay up. People will think I’m mad, but I think we will. I only want positive players around me. I said that in the dressing room after the match. Those who are moping around … the subs are not playing because they’re no good. If they were any good, I’d be picking them. I don’t need miserable faces, I don’t need them around me. I need people who are upbeat because the next two games are unbelievable, Chelsea away and Tottenham at home … two of the best teams in the country. But we’ve got to keep going, and I still think we’ll do it“, said Redknapp after the demoralizing loss at home to Liverpool.
In a like-for-like 4-2-3-1 system, QPR is expected to play Cesar in goal, behind the back-line of Onouha, Nelson, Hill and Traore. Granero may come in to partner Mbia in the double pivot and Redknapp will advise the two midfielders to remain as close to the defenders as possible, leaving little space between the lines. The full-backs will also have to remain composed and positionally aware to counter the threat posed by the likes of Hazard, Oscar and Mata.
Jamie Mackie and Shaun Wright-Phillips will play on either side of Adel Taarabt, who will play off Djibril Cissé, the only fit striker available at the moment.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cesar; Onouha, Nelson, Hill, Traore; Granero, Mbia; Wright-Phillips, Taarabt, Mackie; Cissé
- Chelsea have won four Premier League games on the spin, scoring 14 and conceding twice.
- The Blues have now won three successive Premier League away games within the same season for the first time since August-September 2009.
- QPR have conceded three or more goals before half time on four occasions since the start of last season, more than any other side in the top flight.
- QPR have not won in the league at Stamford Bridge since a 2-0 second tier win in April 1983.
Player To Watch Out For
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Away from the limelight, Eden Hazard has been slowly but surely acclimatizing himself to the Premier League. He had started off in bombastic fashion, assisting, if not scoring, most of Chelsea’s goals in the first few games, but as the team began to struggle collectively, his influence dimmed as well. But of late, he has again raised him game and has been one of the better players for Chelsea. He is capable of producing a moment of magic or two out of absolutely nothing and on his day, his burst of speed, sudden change in direction, passing and trickery are a nightmare for any defender. In front of the home crowd, against a set of defenders lacking in confidence, Hazard can potentially decide the game for Chelsea.
Chelsea 4-0 QPR
Chelsea are in fine form presently, and should face no problems in dispatching a woefully out of form QPR side at Stamford Bridge.
Blast From The Past