Sep 14 2012 By Yann Tear
QPR v Chelsea - Saturday 3pm
ROBERTO DI MATTEO has effectively laid down a challenge to QPR to observe the pre-match handshake ritual at Loftus Road tomorrow – saying his own players fully intend to comply.
The Chelsea boss says he has been in touch with Rangers boss Mark Hughes recently, but has not been given any indication whether any QPR players intend to refuse shaking hands with John Terry.
Last October's clash sparked ill-feeling between the clubs when Terry was alleged to have racially abused Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.
It was decided the pre-match routine would be shelved at the subsequent FA Cup clash and league meeting between the sides for fear that any fallout may be prejudicial to Terry's trial over the issue.
But now he has been cleared by the courts, that is no longer a problem – even though Terry still has to face an FA hearing over last season's unsavoury incident.
Di Matteo says that as far as Chelsea are concerned, they intend to comply fully with the handshake routine and hopes the host club will do the same.
“I think from our point of view, we're going to respect the rules and the protocol that is in place in the Premier League,” he said.
“We want to set a positive standard to the millions of people that are going to watch us all over the world – and make people focus more on the football side rather than other issues.
“I know Sparky very well and we are in touch every now and then and hopefully everybody will focus on the football tomorrow. That's the most important aspect. Hopefully the game will be played in a good spirit.
“I do not know, but I hope QPR will as well respect the rules and go ahead with it, so we can all focus on the football.
“The handshake ritual's in place, so we'll respect it. The game would still go on if it wasn't, but I think it just gives a good outlook to the people who respond beforehand.”
Both Terry and Ashley Cole are expected to be fit again after recovering from minor ankle injuries. Only Marko Marin is unavailable, but even he is on the mend, and takes part in a Friday reserve team fixture.
Juan Mata has enjoyed a short sabbatical following a busy summer, but could feature, having sat out the international week.
Di Matteo fully expects another demanding afternoon in the Loftus Road cauldron – a venue where the Blues have only won once in the league in the past 29 years – and that was 16 years ago
“Every time we go to Loftus Road, it's always feisty,” said the Chelsea boss.
“It's a small ground with very passionate support from both sides. The rivalry's well known and it's going to be a heated atmosphere. It's important we keep our composure.
“We would like both sets of supporters – especially our supporters – to support their teams and hopefully there will be no incidents. Football is here to unite people, rather than divide people and that's what we will set out to do.”