Posted on: Sat 15 Sep 2012

Roberto Di Matteo knows only too well the importance of a local derby, having played half a dozen times for Lazio versus Roma during his three-year spell with the Italian outfit, and some big London matches with Chelsea too.

Today represents a chance for the Blues to pick up maximum points at Loftus Road for only the second time in 13 attempts and the manager is well aware of the tough encounter awaiting his side.

'It's always a difficult game for us going to Loftus Road. We haven't won there in the league for many many years and it's always very challenging to play against QPR,' Di Matteo says.

'It's wonderful to be involved in games like this. The tension is so high, the pressure is there, and it's a fight over league points. It is a big game for us.'

The same fixture last season didn't go to plan as nine-man Chelsea went down 1-0 in October in a match packed with incident, with then manager Andre Villas-Boas remarking that the defeat had a detrimental effect in the weeks that followed. Di Matteo, assistant first team coach at the time, knows what it will take to ensure we don't suffer a repeat of last season's reverse.

'It was the start of a difficult time for us after the defeat. Also, when you play with nine players it takes a lot of mental and physical energy out of the players.

'It's a small ground so the people are right on top of you and you really feel the heat of the supporters there.

'We want to keep all our players on the pitch, try to stick to our game plan, try to win the game and continue our positive start to the league.'

Having only avoided relegation on the final day of last season, QPR rung the changes over the summer. Mark Hughes has brought in a whole host of new faces including new captain Park Ji-Sung, Julio Cesar and former Chelsea man Jose Bosingwa. Di Matteo remains confident, however, that he knows roughly what to expect from the Hoops' starting 11.

'I have a good idea what the team setup will be. There are a few question marks of course, I'm not 100% sure about a few positions but I think I will know probably eight or nine of the 11.'

Di Matteo himself will have to make at least one change from the side that started our last league game against Newcastle three weeks ago, with Raul Meireles having left for Fenerbahçe. Otherwise he should be able to call upon the services of those who have propelled Chelsea to the top of the league.

This afternoon's clash is the first of three consecutive London away games for the Blues and following so many capital failures last campaign, when just a single victory was picked up in eight league attempts, Di Matteo will be hoping that a positive result will signal the start of a better record in local derbies this time around.

By Rupert Cane