Odds on Chelsea winning the FA Cup? 9/2. Odds on QPR winning the FA Cup? 50/1. Odds on Saturday afternoon’s football match finding itself overshadowed by a minority of knuckle-dragging, moronic, and ignorant fools? Unfortunately, very likely.
When the draw for the FA Cup fourth round was made, QPR V Chelsea was accompanied by a sharp intake of breath and the realisation that we all have to start talking about ‘that incident’ again. Therefore, the column inches are inadvertently devoted to an argument which will be played out in the courts, rather than the sport which will be played on Loftus Road.
One of the key men who will be suited and booted at various times over the next month, John Terry, is expected to play on Saturday, no doubt amidst a cacophony of boos from the home faithful. Anton Ferdinand should play a part in the match too, regardless of whether he decides to shake Terry’s hand or show him how he really feels at some point during the ninety minutes.
Remarkably, there will also be twenty other players on the pitch at the start of the game, but Chelsea will be without Frank Lampard – the prolific midfielder misses out with a calf tear. Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba are on African Cup of Nations duty, with the two combining well as the former scored in the Elephants’ 2-0 win over Burkina Faso on Thursday.
QPR have a new manager in place after the sacking of Neil Warnock – a decision which was met with absolute shock and dismay from Warnock himself, and pure unadulterated joy from everyone else in the entire world who will no longer have to tolerate his weekly displays of incompetence. Mark Hughes is now at the helm, but he could be without five key players on Saturday; Danny Gabiddon, Matthew Connolly, DJ Campbell, Jay Bothroyd and Akos Buzsaky are all doubtful.
While Terry was busy allegedly disgracing himself back in October during the first league meeting between the two sides since 1996, Chelsea were struggling to contend with some awful refereeing and a spirited QPR side, eventually going down 1-0 after an early Heidar Helguson goal. Drogba and Jose Bosingwa were both sent off in the first-half. The two sides also met in the Carling Cup in 2009, with Kalou scoring the only goal of the game, and in the FA Cup in January 2008, with Chelsea again winning 1-0 – QPR goalkeeper Lee Camp scoring an own goal. The last time there were more than three goals scored in a match between the two London rivals was back in a 2-2 draw in September 1991.
Everyone’s favourite Wirral-based referee, Mike Dean, will be the man in the middle at Loftus Road. He has reffed three Chelsea games – all of them wins – this season, including the 4-1 victory over Swansea in which Fernando Torres – or, ‘The Hapless’ Fernando Torres to give him his full name – was shown a straight red for an erratic two-footed challenge on Mark Gower. It is Dean’s only red card of the season so far. Dean is yet to officiate QPR in the top-flight, but he is fresh off the back of the meeting between Arsenal and Manchester United, in which he brandished seven yellow cards.
Discipline will be a major issue in this match too, but who will make a worse impression: the players or the fans? We can hope that Sunday’s headlines are about a Torres masterclass, a resounding Chelsea win, or even a narrow 1-0 win from a scruffy finish, but we all know they won’t be. Let’s instead hope that we are able to rise above the hate below, and enjoy the football. Anyone care to guess on the odds of that happening?