I'm pretty sure this will actually turn out to be a football match, although most of the English media seem convinced that it will just be a one minute handshake-off. The two teams will line up in the center, look wistfully into each other's eyes with all the respect commanded by empty gestures, and proceed to shake hands. The team that shakes the most hands will be the winner!
Talk about getting your money's worth if you put down £60+ of your hard-earned for a ticket.
Roberto Di Matteo has been seen putting his Chelsea squad through intense handshake training all week. Experts from around the world had been flown in, to train players in the proper technique. Olympic weightlifters consulted on new workout regimes for extra forearm, bicep, and shoulder strength. Extra vats of lotion had even been trucked in, to keep players' hands supple and irresistible when thrust out towards a potential handshake target.
Real football, then, is to resume midweek vs. Juventus in the Champions League. It seems that the TV people in the UK agree.
Date/Time: Saturday, September 15th, 15:00 (BST), 10:00 AM (EDT), 7:30 PM (IST)
Venue: Loftus Road, London W12
TV Information: none (UK); FSC (USA); STAR Sports (India)
Team News: As per Di Matteo's press conference, Marko Marin and Florent Malouda are out of the squad, the former is trying to rehabilitate his injury, the other is trying to rehabilitate his career. Marin looks set to play for the U-21 team in their match vs. Liverpool in just over an hour - be sure to join us here for that!
John Terry and Ashley Cole have been back to full training, following injuries picked up while away on England duty. Still, JT's injury is the perfect excuse to have him miss this farce. His handshake form in training has been rather limp, while Gary Cahill has been impressing - working extra hours with assistant coach Eddie Newton on a secret double-dragon technique.
QPR: The geographic rivals have just one point so far, which they clawed out away at Norwich City. That came in-between a 5-0 home spanking administered by visiting Swansea City and a 3-1 away defeat to the defending champions. Make no mistake though, a visit by Chelsea will be considered a huge occasion for the fans and players alike. The John Terry - Anton Ferdinand shenanigans have and will only add to the already charged atmosphere.
Mark Hughes's squad has a mostly clean bill of health, so the ex-Chelsea striker has almost all of his 3624 players available to choose from. Random goalkeeper signing Julio Cesar is fit, although there are slight injuries to Samba Diakite and Stephane Mbia. Esteban Granero could be in line for a home debut. Junior Hoilett apparently knows the importance of this derby to the Rangers' fans and will thusly be motivated.
Expect QPR to line up in their usual 4-4-2, or perhaps a 4-4-1-1. Their defense is crap; their attack is led by Bobby Zamora; their midfield could be decent. They are by no means a good team.
Chelsea: All the talk is still centered around that 1-0 defeat, but lost in all the brouhaha around Terry & Ferdinand is the fact that Chelsea completely outplayed their hosts with just nine men in the second half and Andre Villas-Boas was unlucky not to get at least a point out of it. After a 1-0 victory in the FA Cup and a change of managers, Chelsea administered a royal spanking, winning 6-1 in the reverse fixture. Fernando Torres even scored a hat-trick.
Despite all the media hype, and despite the horror-show in Monaco, I expect tomorrow's outcome to be closer to the dominant 6-1 display from the spring. With an eye towards the midweek clash with the Italian champions, we could even see debuts for Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses:
(4-2-3-1): Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta; John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard; Victor Moses, Eden Hazard, Ramires; Fernando Torres