After an emotional night in Barcelona, Chelsea must return home with their gaze fixed on the task of finishing fourth in the Premier League. While winning the Champions League would certainly solve the problem of qualifying for next year’s competition, it is not a guarantee at this point, and the Blues must continue to forge ahead.
Next on the radar, ahead of a crucial clash next Wednesday with Newcastle, QPR will visit Stamford Bridge with a point to prove.
Forget the guards of honour and pre-match handshakes; the bottom line is both teams need the points in the bag. Chelsea are currently four points behind Newcastle, knowing that they can put pressure on them next week. QPR need the points because they are one point free of the relegation zone, with Bolton having a game in hand to be played on Wednesday.
Defeat for either side could prove disastrous, in conjunction with this being a heated London derby means that this could be quite the contest, especially since the last meeting at Loftus Road saw Chelsea finish with 9 men.
Which QPR team appears on Sunday?
Before I can analyse anything about QPR, it has to be said that I have no idea what side shows up against us. Do we get the QPR that stood up fearlessly and bravely to gain wins over Liverpool, Arsenal, and Tottenham? Do we get the side that outplayed Manchester United for the early parts of the game, only to be undone by the emotions after the Ashley Young penalty and sending off? Or do we get the side that looked downright uninterested in playing against West Brom?
That will go a long way to determine what side we play against. Against Arsenal, Liverpool, and the early part of the United match, QPR showed a togetherness, but in defeats, they played as a disjointed team.
If they can’t play a unified style, it’s hard to try to figure out what to expect.
Indiscipline is the one thing that you can expect from QPR.
QPR are nearly a Premier League record, though it might not be one that they want. With one more red card, they will have tied the 2009-2010 Sunderland team for the most red cards in one season. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but just highlights the inconsistency in the first team. Through injuries and suspension, QPR have had to chop and change formations and personnel under Mark Hughes, which has made it that much harder to bed in under a new manager.
The biggest thing is that they have to figure out a way to keep 11 men on the pitch. If they can’t, it will be very hard to stay in the league.
Despite the massive investment in the QPR team, they still lack reliable creators to generate chances.
Heidar Helguson is their leading goal scorer with 9 goals in all competitions. Jamie Mackie, their second leading scorer has 6 goals. No one else on the team has more than 3 goals.
Their lineup last week featured Joey Barton in the hole behind the striker, with their creative force being Adel Taarabt wide left. While Taarabt had a great game and is the only gifted playmaker they possess, he will miss out after being sent off.
The fact is that QPR simply do not have the players to create enough chances against a skilled defense. It’s interesting to me that the three teams that they’ve beaten on this run all have issues in central defence.
If QPR have any hope, they must hope that the Blues makeshift defence doesn’t hold.
Who plays CB on Sunday?
With Branislav Ivanovic still being suspended for one more match, John Terry is left as Chelsea’s lone available central defender. Midweek, Jose Bosingwa filled in admirably at CB, but the Barcelona attack brings about the need for a more mobile backline. Against Bobby Zamora and Helguson, the battle will be entirely different.
Terry’s skills at marshaling his backline will be tested with the need for a victory on the line.
How do the players come down physically and mentally from Tuesday?
It will be interesting to see how Roberto Di Matteo and Eddie Newton get the team prepared for Sunday’s match. The physical toll that the Barcelona match is a concern, but more concerning is the mental state of the players. To defend as they did for 90 minutes took a great deal of mental concentration with a burst of emotions after the win.
If there was a time for a let down without being punished, this might be it. But Chelsea must guard against being too overjoyed by the defeat of the Catalan giants.
While we stamped our tickets for the Allianz Arena on May 19, league matters still have to be dealt with. QPR must attack us as the three points means a great deal to them and their finances. Should they leave enough gaps, we must finish with the same efficiency as we did over the two legs against Barcelona.