John Terry has told Roberto Di Matteo that he is fit and expects to play at Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, as he is determined not to be seen to be shirking any confrontation with Anton Ferdinand.
The Chelsea captain injured his ankle last Friday while playing in England's 5-0 World Cup qualifying win away to Moldova, missed his country's 1-1 draw against Ukraine on Tuesday as he underwent treatment and returned to light training on Wednesday, raising the concern that the Premier League fixture at Loftus Road may come too soon for him. But Terry trained fully on Thursday and is adamant that he is ready to start in what could be a highly charged west London derby.
Ferdinand is also fit, despite having a scan on a shoulder problem on Monday, meaning the pair stand to meet each other for the first time since Terry was acquitted of making a racial slur against the QPR defender in the corresponding fixture last season.
Ashley Cole, who gave evidence on Terry's behalf at Westminster magistrates court in July, returned to training on Thursday after the ankle problem the Chelsea defender suffered in the European Super Cup final defeat by Atlético Madrid at the end of last month. He, too, is fit and eager to play, and his presence would further spice the occasion; Ferdinand was disgusted that Cole took Terry's side in the bitter dispute.
At present, the Premier League expects the traditional pre-match handshakes to take place. Officials indicated the same thing before last season's return league game at Stamford Bridge in April only to change their minds at the last minute and cancel them. The Football Association had cancelled them before the FA Cup tie between the clubs in January. Consideration was given to the legal connotations of the pair shaking hands before the court case.
That is no longer an issue and Chelsea will not push for the pre-match ritual to be stopped. It is highly unlikely, however, that Ferdinand will shake the hand of either Terry or Cole. Terry remains the subject of a Football Association investigation into the flashpoint, which is likely to be heard this month by an independent panel. He has denied the charges.
Chelsea attempted to set the correct tone ahead of the derby with a statement on their official website, which called for the "right rivalry" and highlighted January's FA Cup tie and April's league match as "good examples of passionate and vocal rivalry with the fans of both clubs recognising that abuse and discrimination have no place in a football stadium, nor anywhere else in society.
"Chelsea Football Club wishes to see the level of respect at those games continued throughout this campaign, as it has been in our opening matches.
Both Chelsea and QPR will work together with the police to ensure that anyone using discriminatory or inflammatory language on Saturday is identified, and that the strongest possible action is taken against them."