When these two teams last met in the Premier League back in mid-October, Queens Park Rangers was sitting comfortably at mid-table with 9 points from eight matches while Chelsea held third place with 19 points, just three points off league leading Manchester City. It was, by all appearances, going to be just another garden variety Premier League match. Chelsea hoped to close the gap at the top, and QPR undoubtedly hoped to round out their three losses and three draws with a third win. Very quickly, of course, it turned into something else entirely.
Within 10 minutes David Luiz bumped into Heidar Helguson in the box, resulting in a penalty, which Helguson duly converted. Some 23 minutes later, Jose Bosingwa was issued a red card, and a scant eight minutes after that Didier Drogba faced the same fate. Most notably, sometime in the second half, John Terry allegedly verbally abused Anton Ferdinand by way of a racist epithet. Famously, QPR held on to win the match against their 9-man opponents.
What happened next?
A great deal. But perhaps not what one would have expected. Chelsea did not rally, but neither did QPR take much advantage of the moment.
Indeed, for Chelsea, their captain, John Terry, and their new manager, Andre Villas-Boas, it looked to be the beginning of the end. By the close of the calendar year, Chelsea had racked up five losses in 19 matches, and were sitting in a, relatively speaking, lowly fifth place – a feat not even the much beleaguered Phil Scolari had managed before getting the sack.
But the effects of that October match had worn on QPR as well, and by the end of December they were sitting 17th in the table, two points above the relegation zone. Little more than a week later, QPR manager Neil Warnock was fired and replaced by Mark Hughes.
About three weeks further on from there, John Terry was stripped – once again – of the England captaincy. And a month later still, AVB paid the price much as Neil Warnock had. Both teams seemed to be spiraling downwards.
But it hasn’t quite worked out that way.
And isn’t this what makes the English Premier League so exciting? Fortunes change, and mysteriously so. Six months further on from that fateful match, we look ahead to the return fixture. QPR is a point outside the relegation zone with everything to fight for, while Chelsea is on a remarkable run of form with just one loss, four draws and 10 wins in all competitions since Roberto Di Matteo took over the club. Indeed, Chelsea has made it to the finals of both the FA Cup and – more astoundingly – the Champions League. In the EPL, they are fighting against long odds for a chance at a Champions League spot with only four matches remaining in the season (a struggle that could be rendered redundant if they are able to defeat Bayern Munich on the German side’s home ground in the Champions League final, thereby automatically qualifying for next season’s Champions League).
So will tomorrow’s contest be just another garden variety EPL fixture? Unlikely. If this season has taught fans anything – whether they be Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City, Man United, Newcastle, Spurs, Wigan fans and so on – week after week, fortunes turn. That was then, this is now. And there’s only one way to learn what happens next – tune in tomorrow and see.