Queens Park Rangers vs Chelsea | Sunday 12 April | Loftus Road Stadium | 14:30
Title chasing Chelsea travel to Loftus Road on Sunday to take on relegation-bound QPR in what looks to be a hotly contested affair. These two clubs have built quite a heated rivalry in recent seasons in which red cards, stifled scuffles and passionate scenes have been aplenty. It is no secret that this mutual hatred runs deep throughout both players and supporters, especially after the delicate and debatable racism row between Chelsea captain John Terry and then-QPR centre back Anton Ferdinand. This incident is almost certainly never going to leave the minds of these immensely loyal Rangers fans who will have high hopes of achieving an unlikely upset.
To Win (90mins)
QPR gave their hopes of Premier League survival a huge boost last weekend thanks to an emphatic 4-1 victory against West Brom at the Hawthorns. Eduardo Vargas, Charlie Austin and a fabulous Bobby Zamora lob put Rangers 3-0 up at half-time before Joey Barton's stoppage-time strike. A victory over a stable Premier League club such as West Brom is a major statement; they are determined to stay up. The R’s have lost nine of their last twelve Premier League games and as a result find themselves in eighteenth and two points adrift of safety. No less than three points will do for Chris Ramsey’s side, who are in the thick of a battle to avoid relegation for the second time in three years. A draw at Villa in midweek helped but the task in front of Ramsey was always a tough
one given the state Harry Redknapp left the place in, but he has not been helped by his players taking little responsibility to cut out errors that belong in the Championship, somewhere they’ll soon find themselves unless it stops. Worryingly for Rangers, they haven’t won at home in their last eight matches with six consecutive defeats when previously they’d been hard to beat. QPR’s lethal hitman Austin has really stepped up after a tough start, he’s acclimatised at every step up the football pyramid he’s had to make and is a man in form. Austin seems constricted by the lack of quality of some of his team-mates, but he also elevates them when on or around the ball—anticipating their touches and planning his movements in such a way that he and they invariably make better decisions when he is involved. Almost everything good that QPR did in attack on Saturday involved their number nine in some way.
Chelsea, the favourites for this encounter by a landslide, remain at the top of the standings and with a seven point gap above second-placed Arsenal with a game in hand. The Blues are undefeated in twelve games in all competitions since being knocked out of the FA Cup by Bradford City but they have drawn four of their last eight. Chelsea beat QPR 2-1 at Stamford Bridge earlier this season and will be hoping to pull the double over their local rivals. Eden Hazard has peaked at the perfect moment with club captain Terry making a sensational claim that he is as good as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Hazard was at his majestic best in Chelsea’s 2-1 win against Stoke last weekend scoring from the penalty spot and was also the architect of Loic Remy's winner, as he unselfishly passed the ball into the Frenchman's path. Cesc Fabregas likes to float around the pitch, collecting the ball in various parts of the field and linking play, sewing together the disparate parts of Chelsea’s team. When given time and space on the ball, he can produce in any given moment and QPR will need to mark him tightly. The Blues are braced to be without their leading scorer Diego Costa for up to a month after the Spain forward injured the left hamstring which has troubled him so regularly this season. That said, former Rangers striker Remy is an able deputy who has scored in each of his last two matches and will relish the task of facing his former side. Costa has scored the goals for much of the season to get Chelsea in the position they are and right now it seems Remy is going to be the unlikeliest of heroes to score the goals that win them the title.
VERDICT: Chelsea 4/10
QPR are yet to convince that they can organise themselves appropriately against teams with real firepower. Chelsea have won seven of their eleven head-to-head encounters against QPR with two draws and just two defeats. Chelsea should oust their opponents easily and are available at 4/10. If you’re looking for more value, I suggest taking Chelsea on the half-time/full-time win double at 19/20.