Chelsea could face problems against QPR's in-form speedster
The active ingredient in Jose Mourinho's enduring managerial empire is fear. Opposition worry that defeat is inevitable, that his tactical and psychological influence on his team creates a Machiavellian algorithm designed in the ruthless pursuit of no-frills, machinated victory.
With the division's most porous defence, QPR will require tremendous mental strength to overcome the weight of Mourinho's touchline presence. If they are to succeed where many have failed, then Matt Phillips' counter-attacking speed will need to be used to its fullest potential.
Chelsea's recent victories over Stoke and Hull serve as classic emblems of Mourinho's remarkable title-winning record, despite murmurs and moans regarding squad rotation.
And although they have displayed a jaded-looking creative dearth that draws parallels with Manchester City's current identity crisis, Chelsea continue to conjure up just enough to win – moving effortlessly through the gears, conserving energy, and conveying a sense of control like a cat toying with its kill.
Fighting against this machine goes mostly unrewarded, although recent draws with Burnley and Southampton offer some hope. And indeed, masked beneath QPR's continual defensive woes is a quietly consistent, technically assured unit of talented individuals who, after collecting four points from their last two matches at West Brom and Aston Villa, will enter this fixture with renewed self-belief.
Key to Chris Ramsey's tactical strategy are long, sweeping passes towards Bobby Zamora and a reliance on the directness of speedster Phillips and Leroy Fer. With holding players Joey Barton and Sandro in central midfield as part of a direct 4-4-2 formation, the style of this QPR team represents a nostalgic English style of football. Phillips isn't always successful with his dribbling, but the intent to attack is always there.
QPR play more long balls than any other Premier League team (80 per match), and this strategy – with Zamora as the focal point – is arguably their best source of counter-attacking success.
With left-back Cesar Azpilicueta expected to contribute significantly to Chelsea's attacks, Phillips may find pockets of space to launch the offensive.
His pace and crossing ability worked wonders at Villa Park (one goal, two assists), having lurked midway in his own half and awaited Zamora's passes. Coming up against Mourinho – who will fully expect to see his team march on towards the title – is unlikely to yield rewards. But if QPR are to cause an upset like they almost did at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, Phillips will need to show fearless attacking endeavour.