Two West London rivals face each other in the midday kick-off at Loftus Road as Queens Park Rangers square off to Chelsea. The meeting between the two sides is the first since John Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand and is expected to be highly volatile.
Ferdinand will play for QPR against the Blues, despite an incident where the club received a bullet in the post addressed to the R’s defender. QPR officials have appealed for the 26 year old to shake hands with Terry at Loftus Road, but are unsure whether Ferdinand will want to shake the hands of the person who allegedly abused him. He could line up in defence alongside Nedum Onouha, whose move from Manchester City was completed this week. However, AC Milan loanee Taye Taiwo is not expected to eligible to play having not received international clearance yet. New QPR boss Mark Hughes is without Adel Taarabt and Armand Traore who are on African Cup of Nations duty, but still has enough strength to challenge Chelsea. In the third round, QPR were taken to a replay with League One side MK Dons, which they won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Danny Gabbidon.
Villas-Boas has insisted that his captain Terry will start against the R’s and could be partnered by new signing Gary Cahill, who is in line to make his Chelsea debut. Midfielders Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel are out of action with calf and hamstring injuries respectively, so Michael Essien could be in line for a start against QPR. Chelsea eased past Portsmouth 4-0 in the last round and see the FA Cup as their main chance to win a trophy this season after their bad form in the league and their difficult task against Italian side Napoli in the Champions League last 16. Blues defender Branislav Ivanovic has spoken of this week about the importance the competition holds in the Chelsea squad and they will be eager for victory against their West London rivals.
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck and QPR owner Tony Fernandes have appealed for calm from both fans ahead of the game, but Friday night’s bullet incident will only incite the crowd more. Experienced referee Mike Dean has been appointed for the game and faces a difficult task, but should keep the game respectable. The Blues are steadily getting back into the swing of things in the league and are favourites for victory, but Ferdinand will have his teammates fired up and they could cause a major upset at Loftus Road.
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