Chelsea will look to open a nine point gap between themselves and title challengers Manchester City with a win at home to QPR on Saturday. The Blues kick off just under 24 hours before City, giving them a chance to extend their lead, but they are facing a bogey team in the form of QPR.
Harry Redknapp’s side are in the relegation zone, but they’ve picked up seven points from their last four meetings with Chelsea, including a 1-0 victory in their last trip to Stamford Bridge. QPR haven’t had the best of starts this season, but they took four points from Chelsea in their last relegation season, so the Blues need to be to their toes for this one.
Given Jose Mourinho’s reaction to his fringe players’ performances against Shrewsbury on Tuesday night, don’t expect any shocks in the line up. Mourinho said his team selection was already decided in his head, so he clearly knows who is going to be available.
Thibaut Courtois will come back in for Petr Cech in goal, while Branislav Ivanovic served his ban in the Shrewsbury game, so he’ll be back for selection. His fellow full back Cesar Azpilicueta is serving his final game of his ban for a red card against Palace this weekend, so he’ll miss out. That means Filipe Luis will keep his place in the team, and the back five will be unchanged from the draw against United.
In midfield, Ramires should be back fit again for this game, but he’s likely to take up a place on the bench with Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas starting. Ramires wasn’t even fit enough for the bench against Shrewsbury, meaning he’s hardly likely to start this weekend. Given John Obi Mikel’s mistake cost Chelsea a goal on Tuesday, he’s also unlikely to feature.
Mohammed Salah was another who Mourinho was likely disappointed with, despite his assist, and he should drop out of the team along with Schurrle. Willian and Eden Hazard came on as subs against Shrewsbury, but they’ll be back in the starting line up against QPR. Oscar should complete the midfield five, given how his performances and work rate have been impressive in recent weeks.
Up front is once again Chelsea’s main worry, with the Blues definitely without Frenchman Loic Remy. Didier Drogba has had to play 90 minutes in each of the last two games despite recently declaring himself around 65% fit. The question is, can he start and aim for the full 90 once more?
It’s been argued that Mourinho wouldn’t have risked Drogba if he thought Costa was ready for this weekend’s game, but he had little alternative upfront. His comments after the game on the Ivorian hinted that he may need to play at the weekend, which could see Costa starting on the bench and getting a late appearance to help with his match fitness.
This is an important test for the Blues, that late equaliser from United is the first real setback they’ve faced this season. But, if they can respond to that by laying down a huge marker to City before they face United on Sunday, they’ll show their real title credentials.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0