Friday Football Feature: Chelsea and QPR make major managerial decisions despite contrasting positions


Both clubs are in two very different positions – both in the league and in their current fortunes.


By Alex Christian

With a sacking apiece in two days, Chelsea and QPR have made major managerial decisions while being in two very different positions – both in the league and in their current fortunes.

For Chelsea, the appointment of Rafael Benitez came during a hugely turbulent week – even by their standards.

On Tuesday there was the 3-0 defeat to Juventus which left them on the brink of becoming the first Champions League holders to be dumped out at the first hurdle.

On Wednesday morning there was the swift and unceremonious sacking of fans’ favourite Roberto Di Matteo who guided a struggling side to FA and European Cup glory in 263 days.

Then on Wednesday evening, Benitez became the ninth manager of the Roman Abramovich era on a reported 18-month deal in a hugely unpopular move among Chelsea fans.

And yesterday, the Spaniard’s unveiling was overshadowed by the FA’s clearing of Mark Clattenburg’s alleged racial abuse of Blues midfielder John Obi Mikel, with the Nigerian instead charged for misconduct.

In contrast, Queens Park Rangers’ dire form and demoralising 3-1 defeat to Southampton at Loftus Road last week meant Mark Hughes’s sacking was looming large.

Unlike their West London neighbours, QPR fans will be relishing the prospective appointment of Harry Redknapp in light of their club’s struggles this season.

Supporters during last Saturday’s game chanted for Hughes’s dismissal while one banner read: ‘Harry Come and Save Us’.

Redknapp has a strong record of lifting under-performing sides up the Premier League table, notably transforming a Spurs side that had two points from eight games into Champions League quarter-finalists.

However, QPR owner Tony Fernandes will simply settle for survival this season, with Redknapp said to take over for the Hoops’ midweek trip to Sunderland.

In comparison, virtually all Chelsea fans are against the decision to ditch fans’ favourite Di Matteo in favour of Benitez.

His time as Liverpool boss marked the beginning of the two clubs’ fierce rivalry which exploded during their five memorable Champions League ties between 2005 and 2009.

It could be argued that in sacking the coach who finally delivered his dream of European glory, Abramovich places the form of misfiring striker Fernando Torres above any head coach he appoints, irrespective of what trophies they win.  

Indeed, the failure to lure long-term target Pep Guardiola away from his New York sabbatical is tempered by the fact that Torres’s best-ever form arrived during Benitez’s six-year spell at Anfield – his employer will be hoping history repeats itself.

But Chelsea have more immediate concerns – Premier League Champions Manchester City visit the Bridge on Sunday in a baptism of fire for their new manager.

For QPR, they face a daunting trip up the M1 to Old Trafford with Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki taking temporary charge of the Hoops who desperately need a win soon.

Roberto Di Matteo and Mark Hughes were sacked this week for completely contrasting reasons, yet both sides do share one thing this weekend – two unenviable games against the two Manchester clubs.

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