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Chelsea Kicking Into Form Under Villas-Boas

After an initial slow start under Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea now look settled down in recent games under their new manager.

After an initial slow start under Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea now look settled down in recent games under their new manager.

Opening the season with a 0-0 draw at Stoke City, Chelsea followed that up with a come-from-behind victory at West Brom before two late goals to beat newly-promoted Norwich City. The performance wasn’t there but the results were still coming.

Perhaps a favourable fixture list has helped the former FC Porto boss settle into English football, even if his season opener was one of the toughest venues you could go to in your first Premier League game after coming from overseas.

Since losing 3-1 to Manchester United in mid-September, Chelsea have bounced back with some impressive victories, albeit against sides outside of the top 6. There was a 4-1 victory over Premier League debutants Swansea City, despite Fernando Torres’ first half red card. Then a 5-1 thrashing of Bolton and last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Everton.

Their 5-0 midweek victory over Genk can be taking with a pinch of salt given the weakness of the Belgian Jupiler League, despite being the home of both Ivan Perisic and Romelu Lukaku last season.

The signing of Juan Mata has drastically changed Chelsea. His quick feet and passing ability had added an extra threat to Chelsea going forward. It’s also seemingly brought the best out of Frank Lampard in recent weeks with the England international no longer guaranteed a starting position every week.

Florent Malouda is not on course to reach the double figure mark on his goal tally this season, having done so for the previous two. The left forward has had limited opportunities this season; only playing more than an hour twice this season and yet to complete 90 minutes in the Premier League under Villas-Boas.

Ramires is a player I really like. He often breaks up opposition attacks and isn’t afraid to get mud on his shorts. He also offers a threat going forward with attacking runs with the ball at his feet and darting runs into the penalty area. This weekend, Joey Barton and Shaun Derry have to pick up both he and Juan Mata if they’re to limit the Chelsea threat. The danger of him going forward leaves space in the middle of the park for Adel Taarabt to exploit. Although the Moroccan has yet to cause problems for any Premier League defences he has faced.

Queens Park Rangers have only conceded more than 1 goal 3 times in their 8 league games so far this season. That’s not bad considering they have a defence that now includes Armand Traore and Fitz Hall. However, they conceded 2 goals to Wigan, 4 to Bolton and 6 at Fulham. Hardly the greatest attacking Premier League sides.

Neil Warnock’s side have yet to face a top 6 side and they have only amassed 2 victories so far. I don’t expect them to pick up anything on Sunday, and the fixtures don’t get any easier. Tottenham and Manchester City are to follow.

To face the likes of the previously-mentioned Traore and Hall, Chelsea have Didier Drogba, Daniel Sturridge and Nicolas Anelka in their squad whilst Fernando Torres serves the last of his 3-game ban. Sturridge has scored in those last two games Torres has been absent for and scored in 3 of his 4 starts this season in the league. Anelka scored in the only game he’s played 90 minutes in this season, although Didier Drogba is not having a productive season. They’re not to be overlooked ahead of this one though.

I fear for Queens Park Rangers in this match with the choice of attacking options Chelsea have going into this match. At the opposite end, the Rs are without DJ Campbell for a couple of months through injury. Whilst their only other strikers are the ageing Heidar Helguson, Tommy Smith who hasn’t been a regular goalscorer in previous Premier League seasons, and Jay Bothroyd, who’s yet to cut it at this level. So much for this team being the richest in the world.

Shaun Wright-Phillips had a difficult time trying to open up the Blackburn defence last weekend. With Ashley Cole bound to venture forward as usual in this one, there should be space available for the right winger to exploit and cause problems against his former team. Other than that, Rangers are looking for Taarabt to turn it on.

Chelsea are currently 1.42 with Betfair to beat Queens Park Rangers. They are 2.08 to win by 2 goals or more and a tempting 5.0 to run riot on the road by scoring 4 goals or more.

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