Chelsea vs. QPR: Stories to Look out for

Ian Rodgers@irodgers66World Football Staff WriterDecember 31, 2012

Chelsea vs. QPR: Stories to Look out for

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    The West London derby between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea is relatively new in terms of vintage but the match has become a testy affair since the Loftus Road club returned to the Premier League in 2011.

    The two clubs first met competitively in 1968 with the Stamford Bridge side running out 4-0 winners at Loftus Road in the old First Division.

    The rivalry between the two sides, which has always been fierce, has been cranked up recently with the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand racism case.

    The two clubs will meet again on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, but what are the main stories we should be looking out for?

Frank Lampard to Stay or Go at Chelsea

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    Is Frank Lampard leaving Chelsea? Were his two goals at Everton his last for the Stamford Bridge club? Will he even play against QPR?

    The 34-year-old has not opened negotiations for a new deal at the club, with his current contract ending this summer (BBC Sport).

    The England midfielder has been in splendid form in recent weeks. His double at Everton on Sunday meant Lampard has scored in his last three Premier League starts for the club.

    A more crucial statistic is that Chelsea have won 10, drawn once and not lost this season with Lampard in the team.

    The situation remains baffling for Chelsea supporters. Lampard may be 34, but his influence on the team in recent weeks has been fundamental to their success.

    Intriguingly, QPR manager and Lampard’s uncle, Harry Redknapp, has been linked with a move for the player (Metro).

Harry Redknapp Goes from England and Chelsea Links to Relegation Dogfight

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    Harry Redknapp has undergone quite a year and transformation in fortunes in 2012.

    Only 12 months ago, he could do little wrong at Tottenham with the North London club looking at another Champions League spot.

    On February 8 this year, Redknapp was cleared of tax evasion charges and just hours later was installed as favourite to become England manager after Fabio Capello quit his role in the wake of John Terry being stripped of the captaincy following allegations of racism toward QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.

    Even in the life of Redknapp, it was an astonishing few hours.

    On March 4, Andre Villas-Boas was axed as Chelsea manager and Redknapp was listed as a favourite to replace the Portuguese coach.

    However, the FA opted for Roy Hodgson as new England boss. Meanwhile, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich kept interim manager Roberto Di Matteo on permanently after the team's Champions League triumph, which also denied Tottenham a place in the Champions League.

    To rub salt in his wounds, Tottenham sacked Redknapp in July despite his successes with the White Hart Lane club over the previous four years.

    Ironically, Villas-Boas succeeded Redknapp at Spurs and the former West Ham boss was left sidelined until QPR made their move following the dismissal of Mark Hughes in November.

    The 2012 nadir for Redknapp came in his final game of the year as Luis Suarez inspired Liverpool to a three-goal halftime lead against an insipid QPR display at Loftus Road.

Rafael Benitez Has Stared Down the Boo-Boys at Chelsea

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    If 2012 has seen a downturn in Harry Redknapp’s fortunes, it has also featured an unexpected reversal for Rafael Benitez.

    The Spaniard had not worked in management since being sacked by Inter Milan two years ago.

    However, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich turned to the 52-year-old on an interim basis after the dismissal of Roberto Di Matteo in November.

    Stamford Bridge supporters were incandescent with rage at the appointment, citing Benitez’s comments about Chelsea when he was Liverpool manager as the argument against him joining the club.

    Banners, jeers and chants from the home supporters ensured Benitez was reminded of their displeasure when he first took his seat in the Stamford Bridge dugout for the goalless draw with Manchester City in November.

    However, after a shaky start in his new position with a run of three Premier League matches without a win, Benitez has rediscovered winning ways at Chelsea.

    The team have been recording big scorelines during their present run of four successive league and cup wins, notably the eight-goal drubbing of Aston Villa before Christmas.

    Benitez is also getting the best out of striker Fernando Torres, who is enjoying his best spell at the club since joining from Liverpool in a £50 million move two years ago.

    After two victories in potentially awkward matches at Norwich and Everton over Christmas, it will be interesting to view the reaction of Chelsea supporters towards Benitez at the start of 2013.

John Terry Must Be Wondering How to Break Back into Chelsea Team

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    Thankfully, the issue of handshakes is unlikely to raise its head again on Wednesday with Chelsea captain John Terry still on the mend after a knee injury.

    The former England defender’s Football Association charge for racially abusing QPR centre-half Anton Ferdinand during a match between the two clubs in October 2011 has been put to bed after Terry was banned for four games and fined £220,000.

    However, a genuine question for the 31-year-old to consider is whether he will return to the team after missing the opening 10 matches of Rafael Benitez’s interim reign.

    The former Liverpool and Inter Milan boss has seen his team concede just twice in the current run of four successive wins in domestic competition.

    Benitez has paired combinations of Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic in central defence while Terry has been sidelined.

    The Cahill-Ivanovic backline earned significant praise from Benitez ahead of Sunday’s hard-fought 2-1 win at Everton (ESPN).

    With Luiz discovering a new lease of life in front of the back four, the new defensive dynamic at Stamford Bridge under Benitez will be looking for another clean sheet against their West London neighbours to leave Terry looking at his future.