Tactical Preview: Chelsea v QPR

QPR head to Stamford Bridge a clear favourite to lose- and possibly bag a huge shellacking in the process. Though Harry Redknapp’s men are coming off a two-game winning run, they are still second from bottom in the Premier League table- not to mention weak on a number of levels, and this is the wrong time to be visiting a Chelsea side that won’t be in a very forgiving mood.

Last Sunday’s disappointing draw aside, the Blues will remember how threatening QPR can be in the Derby, the Rs winning both in their last visit here two seasons ago and at home in a game more remembered for what horrible things John Terry yelled at Anton Ferdinand. The resulting furore made everyone forget just how poor Chelsea had looked that day, going down to nine men before the half and losing to a Heidar Helguson penalty.Heidar Helguson!

QPR don’t have a high-variance option

One of the more damning indictments of QPR’s football this season is their inability to combine defence and attack. Which is just as good, because a good calculated risk against a team like Chelsea would be to avoid sitting back, and try something that the opposition isn’t expecting. A perfect example was when Everton visited the Bridge a few seasons ago, coming away with a 4-4 draw. It’s certainly a bigger risk, but adds a surprise factor and does give the minnow a bigger window of success, and QPR do happen to boast a fearsome attacking duo in Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora. One came up with the goods against Villa, the latter has the grit and athleticism to bring Eduardo Vargas into play.

Trouble is, QPR have tried this before, as the ludicrous 3-2 home defeat to Liverpool proved. What’s worrying is that Harry Redknapp’s choice to throw caution to the wind and press Liverpool all over the park still ended up backfiring. His team should have won, but Leroy Fer (usually one of their best players) hit the woodwork twice in the first half alone, and QPR shipped in two goals after the 90th minute to come away with nothing. The Rs only opted for all-out aggression against Liverpool because they didn’t respect their passing game anyway, and may not dare be so brave this time round, especially as…

The Diego Costa party bus is back in town, and Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker are terrified

Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas’ arrival in the summer has given Chelsea a whole new attacking dimension. Gone is the team that struggled down the stretch last season against packed defences, not now that Fabregas can pick defences apart with his vertical passing, one-twos and neat interplay with the fullbacks, and Costa… well…

Caulker and Dunne need help, as they aren’t exactly the speediest defensive pairing on the circuit. Picking up from the previous point, Burnley tried aggressive tactics against Chelsea, and paid the price despite taking an early lead at Turf Moor. All it took was a neat pass from Cesc Fabregas to Branislav Ivanovic… and a finish from Diego Costa.

QPR aren’t built for the counter

Trouble is, even a more cautious QPR could fail to make the grade, having been very average when adopting a more defensive approach, even against teams who struggle to build from the back. QPR looked awkward against both Aston Villa and West Ham, and can count themselves lucky to have pulled away against the Villains just as their opponents were looking to take control.

With two midfielders (Henry and Sandro, for example) sitting in front of their frail back four, only Leroy Fer is left as an attacking outlet in the middle. Redknapp may not have the stones to deploy attacking players like Vargas on the wing, or two strikers up front- a setup that has allowed them to win their last two games. When one thinks of Stamford Bridge upsets, QPR are unlikely to emulate Sunderland’s impressive effort from last season: they haven’t got the defensive mettle and the Blue are much improved. In most things anyway…

Chelsea need a wake up call on set pieces

50% of QPR’s goals in the league this season have come from set pieces, a worrying trend for a team like Chelsea that still has its work cut out ironing out that very weakness. Against Manchester United, it cost Chelsea two deserved points. Now that Manchester City look weak, it would be the wrong time to start dropping points. Manchester United certainly rue the chances they didn’t put away to keep the Citizens at a distance three seasons ago.

Eduardo Vargas v Gary Cahill

A final point concerns last week’s GOAT, Gary Cahill, who for all his talent does occasionally have games where he makes multiple- and often costly- mistakes. He will need to keep a careful eye on Eduardo Vargas who- if Redkapp starts him, and that’s quite an if- will be a major pain in the neck, cutting inside to create one-two scenarios and look for the chink in Chelsea’s armour. The former Universidad de Chile man was woefully misused in Italy, and is slowly putting together a campaign that will justify all the hype we read about him two years ago.

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