Chelsea will be confident of ushering in 2013 with victory when they host West London rivals Queen’s Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday (7.45pm GMT).
Chelsea are third in the Premier League table with 38 points from 11 wins, five draws and three defeats. They have a game in hand on all those around them due to their participation in the Club World Cup.
The Blues have been in superb form since returning from that tournament and recorded their fourth straight league victory on Sunday in a 2-1 triumph away to Everton.
The home side were rampant in the first half hour, taking a second minute lead through Steven Pienaar. They spurned other chances to increase their advantage as they overran a Chelsea midfield who initially appeared clueless in their attempts to provide an effective shield for the back four.
The Blues did, though, gradually work their way into the match and equalised through Frank Lampard just before half time. Everton, undeterred, continued to press on in the second half, striking the woodwork on two occasions. But it was Chelsea who secured the three points when Lampard found the back of the net again following excellent work from Eden Hazard and Juan Mata.
It was not a controlling performance in the same manner as the 1-0 win over Norwich four days earlier, but was nevertheless one from which manager Rafael Benitez will have taken great solace for the commitment and determination displayed by his players.
The time the squad spent together in Japan during the Club World Cup allowed Benitez to intensively work on the shape of the team. His team are more compact and better organised than they were under Roberto Di Matteo, but are also functioning well offensively, with Mata particularly impressive.
Statistically, Benitez has accumulated points at the same rate as Di Matteo, with 14 points from his seven matches in charge equalling the two points per match average obtained during the Italian’s 12 matches at the helm. But having now had time to bed in, it is clear that Benitez has brought improvements to the team that should pay dividends in the remainder of the campaign.
Chelsea are currently 11 points shy of league leaders Manchester United and four behind City in second, but do have a game in hand on both. It is still a long shot, but if they can continue their recent form they could yet have a say in the title race before the season is out.
Queen’s Park Rangers are rooted to the other end of the table, having secured just 10 points from their 20 fixtures to date. They are three points behind Reading in 19th and eight short of safety. It leaves them with a mountain to climb if they are to avoid relegation, an eventuality that the bookies think is certain with relegation betting odds quoted around 1/4 for QPR to go down.
Mark Hughes was sacked as QPR manager in late November, just two days after Di Matteo received his marching orders from Chelsea. The arrival of Harry Redknapp in his place has precipitated better form, but further improvement is needed if the club are to climb out of the bottom three.
QPR accumulated four points from Hughes’ 12 matches in charge (0.33 per match), lost to Manchester United before Redknapp officially took over, and have now obtained six points in seven matches (0.86 per match) under Redknapp’s control.
If they continue to accumulate points at a rate of 0.86 per match over their remaining matches they would finish with just 25 points, which will not be enough to survive. QPR have won just once all season and Redknapp will know that victories are the key to the club mounting a serious battle against the drop in the second half of the campaign.
The Hoops come in to the local derby against Chelsea on the back of three consecutive defeats, the latest of which was a 3-0 loss at home to Liverpool on Sunday. The away side dominated possession and sliced through the leaden-footed QPR defence with embarrassing ease. It was a comprehensive defeat and one that will have offered little hope to Redknapp.
QPR invested heavily in the summer, but a number of the new signings have not performed as expected. Redknapp is unlikely to be given much of a transfer budget in January so will have to seek out bargains if he wants to add to his options.
Chelsea v QPR Betting Tips
This fixture has a fractious recent history, but with John Terry absent through injury the animosity should at least be slightly reduced this time around.
The two sides drew 0-0 when they met at Loftus Road earlier this season, but we would not expect to see a similar result on Wednesday. Chelsea are in excellent form, while QPR are really struggling to pick up results and were worryingly open in defence in their defeat to Liverpool.
- Back Chelsea -1.5 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of 7/11 with Pinnacle.
- Mata has scored in six of his last nine matches in all competitions and three of his last five in the Premier League. He is in excellent form and we would therefore suggest backing Juan Mata to score at anytime @ 6/5 with Coral.