Another day, another London derby. This time it is QPR coming to the Bridge for what is an eagerly awaited clash, particularly for the Hoops.
I’m looking forward to the game particularly because it represents the best chance Chelsea’s younger players have of making an impression that we’ve seen for a long time. Too often over the last few years younger players have either been written about but never seen or made fleeting appearances of the bench only to disappear back into perpetual life in the reserves. You can read a critique of Arnesen's youth development that I posted earlier in the leauge here.
I’ve always appreciated that, so long as the pressure remains to win every game and compete to win trophies, the scope to blood younger, less experienced players is limited. Despite this I’ve also always argued that Chelsea need to focus less on bringing in established talent and that opportunities to field Chelsea’s existing younger players have presented themselves but haven’t been taken. Why hasn’t Sturridge – who played very well in pre-season - had a chance this season, for example? There have been at least two league games this season that have been won with twenty minutes still on the clock that would have provided a great opportunity to bring him on. Perhaps Chelsea have been saving him from first team duty to prevent his transfer fee – which is still to be decided by tribunal – increasing higher than expected.
Over the past few years Chelsea have taken the Carling Cup very seriously, playing pretty much full strength sides throughout. I’ve agreed with this approach as it has shown both the competition and paying fans respect. I’m also convinced by the argument that winning the Carling Cup in February can help take pressure off the team and provide a good platform to push for other honours.
But it’s a question of balance, and in terms of giving youngsters an opportunity to progress I don’t think Chelsea have always got it right. The noises coming out of Stamford Bridge suggest that tonight’s game against QPR may prove the exception to the rule however, and while we can welcome Joe Cole and Zhirkov back into the fray (two players that really could make a difference to a season that has already started well) I would expect them to be joined by only a few of their senior team-mates.
Borini came on against Spurs at the weekend, but didn’t really have much time to show what he can do – hopefully he’ll start tonight. Sturridge should also get a game, as should Hutchinson. Turnbull may well start in goal despite a couple of nervy performances in the reserves.
It’s a shame we won’t get to see Kakuta – I’m sure he’d have got some time this evening if it wasn’t for FIFA – but I’ll be fascinated to see how the rest of them get on as well as how Joe Cole and Zhirkov return from injury. Look out for the normal match report and reaction on www.bridgeviews.co.uk tomorrow.
It’s worth a quick word on our opponents – QPR are under the microscope at the moment because of the ongoing Briatore speculation, but I wouldn’t have thought Magilton will let this affect his players’ performance on the pitch. The injection of cash since the Ecclestone, Briatore and Mittal takeover back ion 2007-8 hasn’t paid off following a string of managerial changes. Our local West London rivals can only be said to have made a solid start in the Championship this season, winning just two games from seven. It’s worth pointing out that both of those wins have come away from home.
bridgeviews.co.uk prediction: I admit that I don’t know too much about QPR but I would hope that, despite a changed starting XI, I would hope that Chelsea should still have enough to see off QPR. I reckon Chelsea will win 2-1, with Zhirkov scoring the first goal.
You might also be interested to read:
- thechelseablog.org’s take on this evening’s game, including a look at the pre-match comments coming out of each camp and recent results between the teams