Chelsea-Queens Park Rangers Preview
If there is life left in this season's Premier League title race, might it draw breath Sunday at Loftus Road?
Champions-elect Chelsea sit seven points clear of second-placed Arsenal with a game in hand as they prepare for a West London derby against relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers.
Yet a slip-up at Loftus Road, where the Blues have won only once in six attempts since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, may just open the door for Arsene Wenger's side.
With matches against the Gunners and third-placed Manchester United to follow, avoiding a Devon Loch-style stumble at Shepherd's Bush is imperative for Chelsea this Grand National weekend.
Blues boss Jose Mourinho was in typical bullish mood when asked about the influence of the crowd during his pre-match press briefing.
"People in the stands can play a role but they cannot score goals," Mourinho said. "The referee and the assistants are there, so I'm not worried. I go just focused on playing our game and trying to win."
Mourinho refused to look ahead to those clashes against United and Arsenal when it was put to him he might consider resting Nemanja Matic or Cesc Fabregas who are each a booking away from triggering a two-match ban.
"If they have to make a foul for a yellow card; a foul you have to do, they have to do it, but the way we play it's not easy for our players to be booked," he said. "The game is a three-point game. We need points, we need victories and we cannot choose matches. It doesn't make any sense to think about some matches and not about others."
Rangers head coach Chris Ramsey hopes his side can use the clash with Chelsea to propel themselves out of the relegation zone.
"It's a derby, so there will be hostility," he told his club website. "Our fans have been great all season and I don't expect anything different this weekend."We all know what it means to the supporters – we are well aware of it."
According to Ramsey, the high stakes on Sunday will give this derby and added dimension.
"At this stage of the season, with what's at stake for both teams, it gives it added spice. The players live for these sort of games."
QPR will be without a handful of key players for the clash. A lengthy injury list includes Rio Ferdinand, Adel Taarabt, Alejandro Faurlin and Leroy Fer. Michael Doughty and Eduardo Vargas are also out but experienced defender Richard Dunne will be available.
In contrast Chelsea will just be without Diego Costa, who is their only injury absentee.
Chelsea won the reverse league fixture 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in November. Oscar gave the Blues the lead before Charlie Austin levelled. Vargas brought down Eden Hazard inside the box with 15 minutes remaining and the Belgian stepped up to slot away the spot kick and secure the points.
It was just Chelsea's second win in five league meetings with QPR going back to 2011. The Blues have not won, or scored on league duty at Loftus Road since a 2-1 win in January 1996. The corresponding fixture last season finished goalless.