Carling Cup third round
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Wednesday, 23 September
Kick-off: 1945 BST
Last season’s Carling Cup was one to forget for us, with us exiting in a penalty shoot-out to Burnley. They were still in the Championship then and despite Ray Wilkins assurance that Scolari would respect the competition in terms of the side he put out, with players like Carvalho, Ballack, Essien and Joe Cole all missing through injury already, Scolari then decided to give Cech, Bosingwa and Anelka the night off and leave Terry, Lampard and Mikel on the bench. Not exactly what I’d call taking the competition seriously.
This time round it’s QPR – a club not without their fair share of money or controversy – and seeing as we only managed an unconvincing 1-0 scrape in our last meeting with them in last year’s FA Cup, we could do with a much better performance this time around.
Looking at our history against each other, in 47 meetings, we’ve won 17, drawn 17 and lost 13. They haven’t beaten us at Stamford Bridge since 1986 though and we’ll be going into this game looking to maintain our 100% start to the season.
Carlo Ancelotti seems to have been fairly quiet on this one so far, although former QPR manager Ray Wilkins has been more vocal, saying “I really enjoyed it there but it’s changed now. They have financial backing now but they’re still the same club in terms of the football they play. The manager always wants them to play football. They had a fantastic result on Saturday (a 2-0 win at Cardiff) and will come here with high spirits. I think they’ll bring 6,000 and they’ll be looking forward to it but it’s up to us to make it an unhappy evening for them. Carlo has come here to win trophies, whether that be the Carling Cup or the Community Shield. We have a group of winners, the manager included, and we want to win every game we play. That’s the way we’ll be and that’s the way we’ll finish it as well. I think Carlo’s enjoying himself. It’s a different culture to manage in England but he’s enjoying working with the guys. The respect they all have for each other has been there since he walked in the door. We have very intelligent footballers at this club and, whichever system they’re asked to play, they take it on board quickly. It’s worked out through the week and a lot of hard work has gone into producing that. We lost against Burnley last season and we don’t like losing. We want to go as far as we possibly can in this competition. It’s an important competition for us.”
Jim Magilton meanwhile, amid all the off-field speculation around Flavio Briatore, says “We are not being naïve. We’re all aware of what’s happened and what is going on, but footballers are pretty selfish brutes and they tend to take care of their own business. Quite rightly, too. My job as a manager is to keep them focused on their jobs. The next job is Chelsea away and we’ll all be concentrating on that. They are one of the best, if not the best, side in British football. But momentum in football is massive and we’ve got a bit with us after Saturday. We’re unbeaten ourselves in five and there’s a great belief in the camp. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our players to test themselves against the best players in Europe. It gives us a taste of where this club wants to be – where we all want to be. It’s a fantastic stadium and it will be a fantastic atmosphere.”
For Chelsea, there doesn’t seem to be any word of a return for Alex (groin) or Deco (calf), so it looks as if they’re still injured. There does seem to be more talk about Joe Cole, Zhirkov and Ferreira though, with the suggestion that they could all be involved, as could a few of our younger players. Didier Drogba, although declared fit to return to training yesterday, will be rested for this game.
For QPR, the news is that Lee Cook (knee), Gareth Ainsworth (hamstring), Fitz Hall and Angelo Balanta (groin) all remain injured. Matt Connolly misses out with a virus and Ben Watson is cup-tied, although Adel Taarabt has returned to training and could make it back.
Chelsea 1-0 QPR (Jan 5th 2008)
It’s hard to know how seriously foreign managers take cup games like this one and whilst Ancelotti’s gone all out for results in the league, with the stability of his first eleven a big part of that, it looks as if there’ll be wholesale changes in tonight’s line up. Is that maybe a little naïve? I guess we’ll find out the answer to that question soon enough.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Hilario, Turnbull, A Cole, Belletti, Bosingwa, Terry, Ivanovic, Kalou, Ballack, Obi, Lampard, Hutchinson, Bruma, Borini, Cole, Zhirkov, Malouda, Essien.