Forget Barca and focus on Premier League: Di Matteo

29 April 2012 06:46

Roberto Di Matteo has warned his Chelsea players not to dwell on their epic triumph against Barcelona as the Blues bid to keep their top four challenge alive in a potentially explosive clash with west London rivals QPR on Sunday.

Di Matteo's side are still coming back to down to earth in the aftermath of arguably the greatest night in Chelsea's history, but the Blues interim boss is determined to refocus his players' minds on a potentially decisive fixture in their Premier League campaign.

Chelsea's astonishing fightback from 2-0 down with 10 men in Wednesday's semi-final second leg in the Camp Nou has booked a place in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich and made heroes of Di Matteo and his squad.

But overcoming Lionel Messi and company will be nothing but a pleasant memory if Chelsea aren't competing in the Champions League next season.

To do that they must either beat Bayern at the German club's own Allianz Arena, which looks a daunting proposition given they will be without the suspended John Terry, Ramires, Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanovic, or qualify via a top four placing in the Premier League.

Their hopes of finishing fourth or better could be all over if they lose to QPR at Stamford Bridge as they are already four points behind fourth-placed Newcastle, who travel to Wigan on Saturday, with only four games to play.

With that in mind, Di Matteo insists there is no time to rest on the laurels earned in Catalonia.

"We'll try to win on Sunday to keep our hopes alive to finish in fourth spot," Di Matteo said. "Our priority is to try our best against QPR.

"It will be a tough game because they are fighting against relegation. We know how tough it will be to play a team in that position. We played Wigan a short time ago and it was very tough."

With both Chelsea and QPR, who are battling to avoid relegation, desperate for the points, there was already plenty of spice to this London derby, but the likely presence of Terry and Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand in the starting line-ups brings a whole new level of intrigue.

This will be Ferdinand's first appearance at the Bridge since October's league fixture, after which allegations emerged he had been racially abused by Blues captain John Terry.

Terry, who faces a court case in July after being charged over the matter, has categorically denied any wrongdoing.

Ferdinand expects a hostile reception from Chelsea supporters after reportedly being sent a bullet ahead of an FA Cup tie between the sides at Loftus Road in January.

And in a bid to avoid the uncomfortable scenario of Ferdinand and his team-mates snubbing Terry, the Premier League have decided to abandon the traditional pre-match handshakes between the teams.

"There is a big rivalry between the two clubs anyway but, with everything that has happened, I know there will be some fans targeting me," Ferdinand said.

"The Chelsea fans believe what they want to believe. They have their own view on what's gone on, and if they are going to give me stick, that's their problem.

"All I can say is that it won't upset my game. If they think that's what's going to happen then they have got another thing coming."

QPR go into the weekend just one point above the relegation zone, but recent victories against Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham suggest it is not impossible that they can win at the Bridge for the first time since 1986.

Mark Hughes' side will take further comfort from Chelsea's defensive problems.

Di Matteo will be without Gary Cahill and David Luiz with hamstring injuries, while Ivanovic serves the final game of his three-match ban, leaving Terry as the Blues' only recognised centre-back.

Source: AFP

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