The last few games have been pretty good to Chelsea. The team has scored seventeen goals in four matches, conceding three goals in the process. They've also managed to keep a clean sheet for the first time since the Carling Cup shootout win against Fulham, which feels like it happened several ice ages hence. We're on a good run, in other words, and it's difficult to see Queens Park Rangers acting as more than the tiniest of speedbumps in our road to
world domination third place.
QPR have obvious strengths - they're very good in the middle and quick down the wings, which will probably frustrate Chelsea because diagonal long passes are the best way to unsettle the Blues' defence. They have obvious weaknesses, too, the most obvious being that they are in no way shape or form as good at us, which makes for a far less interesting tactical battle.
When you're much better than your opposition and have obvious weaknesses that they're going to try to exploit, mitigating those weaknesses and playing normally means you're probably going to win, so tactically the onus is on QPR to come up with a way to neutralise the Chelsea threat. That probably means trying to track Juan Mata, which has proved pretty difficult for all concerned so far. If you want a more in-depth tactical report, someone already wrote that preview for you.
Chelsea have some interesting selection dilemmas. With Ramires out with a knee injury, their midfield looks a little bit odd, and it's not entirely clear who'll be starting at centre forward with Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and perhaps even Daniel Sturridge all in contention for a spot. My solution to the midfield would be to use the relatively rested Raul Meireles and Frank Lampard, who've both had a little more than a game over the past week. Realistically, rest shouldn't be much of a worry - the Blues have had three days off after a very easy match against Genk, and if they can't play after that then they're embarrassingly unfit. Or they're old.
I'd pick Drogba up front because that will force the QPR line to play higher, and I'd flank him with Mata and Sturridge. Anelka played exceptionally well on Wednesday, true, but players shouldn't have to 'earn' a starting spot based on previous performance. If they're going to be useful, play them. Sturridge will stretch the play better than Anelka would, so he should probably start. It's not like we have a shortage of games Nico can feature in coming up.
I would also favour David Luiz returning to the starting lineup, but I think we can all attest to the fact that I'm biased. The man might be an erratic defender, but the rest of our lost are erratic defenders anyway and we're playing against a team that will presumably be going for a point at best. David Luiz's creativity and passing will provide a secondary threat behind Mata, and whenever he doesn't feature Chelsea's attack looks far less coherent. Play him.
Here's my lineup:
Chelsea (4-3-3): Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, John Terry, David Luiz, Jose Bosingwa; John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, Raul Meireles; Juan Mata, Didier Drogba, Daniel Sturridge.
Boring, right? I'm going to go for a 3-1 win here, because two clean sheets in a row would be weird and not scoring against QPR would be even weirder. The match is at Loftus Road at 4:00 PM GMT (11:00 AM EST) on Sunday. Be here... or be elsewhere, I guess. That's cool too.
PS: God I hope Neil Warnock finds something to whine about at the end of this one.