• First game between QPR and Chelsea since court case
• Terry and Ashley Cole set to be snubbed in handshake
Roberto Di Matteo has spoken with John Terry and Chelsea's medical department and been reassured his captain is ready, both physically and mentally, to lead the side out on Saturday into the volatile atmosphere which is bound to be whipped up at Loftus Road.
Terry returned to light training only on Wednesday after suffering an ankle injury during England's thrashing of Moldova in Chisinau seven days ago, damage that had ruled him out of the national team's draw with Ukraine in midweek. The defender had always been desperate to feature against Queens Park Rangers, with this the first meeting with Anton Ferdinand since Terry was acquitted of making a racial slur against the Rangers player in the corresponding fixture last October.
Yet the 31-year-old had been similarly determined to feature in January's FA Cup fourth-round tie between the teams, despite being troubled at the time by bruising to his knee. The centre-half ended up aggravating that injury in the 1-0 win and missed the next six weeks. "But I don't think there are any concerns that he will aggravate anything this time," Di Matteo said. "My selection is made on the basis that, if the medical department tells me a player is fine, he's available to be selected.
"I will consider everything [when picking the Chelsea team]: the internal and external environments, the fitness of the team and what's the best side to play against QPR. It's always a difficult game for us at Loftus Road, and we haven't won there in the league for many years [since 1996], so it'll be very challenging. But as for John Terry, he's a confident player. I wouldn't have any hesitation picking him in that sense.
"To be able to survive for so many years at the top level in football, at club and international level, you need to be mentally strong. That goes for all the players who have had that kind of career, not just JT: players I've come up against like Paolo Maldini, [Angelo] Peruzzi, [Pierluigi] Casiraghi, [Alessandro] Costacurta, [Alessandro] Del Piero, all players who have spent 15 to 20 years at the highest level, domestic and international football. You need to be mentally strong, yes. But he has that, and he's 100% committed. He doesn't need any of that 'extra' [incentive] in this game to perform."
Terry and Di Matteo discussed the derby at Cobham this week, while on Friday both clubs were ordered by the Premier League to observe the pre-match handshake. However, with another senior player, Ashley Cole, also fit to play after an ankle injury, it is understood that Ferdinand, and some other QPR players, will snub the Chelsea pair in the opening ritual.
Di Matteo, who spoke with his opposite number, Mark Hughes, at a recent Premier League managers' meeting, was clear that Terry and Cole would offer their hands to all the home players in the lineup. "From our point of view, we're going to respect the rules and the protocol in place with the Premier League and set a positive standard to the millions of people who are going to watch us around the world, and make sure people focus on the football side rather than anything else," he said.
"Our players are fine. They're respecting the rules and going ahead with [the handshake]. There are no issues.
"Every time we go to Loftus Road it's always a feisty day. A big derby for us, a small ground with very passionate supporters from both sides. The rivalry is well known, so it's going to be a heated atmosphere, but let's hope we can all focus on the football."