This may just be a soccer match but the stories swirling around the first meeting on the season between Chelsea and QPR are about everything but the match. This will be the first meeting of the clubs since the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand race row kicked off last season, so naturally, everyone is talking about Ferdinand's reported insistence that he will not shake Terry or Ashley Cole hands before the match...sigh.
As for the game, since that's what we're here to preview, these two west London rivals will meet for the first time this year going in different directions. While the geographical separation is only four miles, the separation in the table feels like 40 miles. Chelsea sit atop the EPL with the league's only 100% record while QPR have managed only a point from three games.
The Blues are healthy with only Marko Marin unavailable with a hamstring injury. Cole and Terry face fitness tests ahead of kickoff, but they're both expected to play and start. Roberto Di Matteo will be able to role out his first choice lineup and we'll be able to see if Eden Hazard can continue his brilliant pre-international break form.
QPR will be without the services of Stephane Mbia (undisclosed) and Samba Diakite (personal reasons). So essentially, Mark Hughes has his whole roster available for selection. This game won't decide QPR or Hughes' fate this season, but if they can't start getting points soon, the pressure will continue to build on Hughes who is expected to get results with all the money being spent by ownership.
Tune in early, the pre-match festivities might very well be more entertaining that the match itself.
Match Date/Time: Saturday, September 14, 10:00 a.m. ET
Venue: Loftus Road, London, England
TV: FOX Soccer Channel (U.S. - English), Sportsnet World (Canada)