Andre Villas-Boas believes it is important that Anton Ferdinand and John Terry shake hands before today's FA Cup fourth-round tie despite the continuing fall-out from the last meeting between Chelsea and Queen's Park Rangers last October.
Then, Terry was accused of racially abusing Ferdinand – an accusation Terry denies – and the case against the Chelsea captain will be heard by West London magistrates' court next Wednesday, four days after the centre-back has led his side out for today's highly charged lunchtime meeting between the two teams.
Tensions surrounding the game have been increasing to the extent that the two clubs this week put out a joint statement pleading for calm from both sets of supporters. Although police said yesterday they are investigating a bullet addressed to Ferdinand being sent to the QPR training ground. The pre-match handshake between the two teams will inevitably be closely scrutinised. Despite Terry's denials Ferdinand is understood to be reluctant to shake Terry's hand and Tony Fernandes, the QPR owner, was due to speak to the player yesterday to encourage him not to snub the England captain.
Villas-Boas, the Chelsea manager, insists he has not spoken to Terry specifically about the issue but entered the debate yesterday.
"I think it's important they shake hands," he said. "This game is based on good values more than anything else. These two players should continue to promote those good values.
"Firstly, it's a question of respect for the opponent and everybody should do it. When it reaches that moment, the players should set out an example. A lot of the situation has been spoken about, but it's good for the players to show that whatever is happening off the pitch, they are playing against each other."
Mark Hughes, the QPR manager, adopted a different approach, distancing himself from the issue and insisting the decision was Ferdinand's alone. "That has to be his own personal decision," said Hughes. "If he feels it is not appropriate to do that, that has to be his own decision. It won't be influenced by myself or the club. I don't think there has been any talks about handshakes whatsoever. It could change from one day to the next – Anton could wake up in the morning, think, 'What's the big deal?' and shake hands, or he might feel strongly about it and decide he definitely won't. I don't know if he will shake hands – I'm not Anton."
Terry has experienced a similar situation when speculation surrounded his first meeting with Wayne Bridge after allegations emerged about the Chelsea player's relationship with his ex-team-mate's former partner – and Villas-Boas insists his captain will be unaffected by the attention.
"John is one of the greatest central defenders in the world, maybe one of the best ever in the game," said the Portuguese manager. "His progression has been outstanding, his qualities are amazing.
"All these players went through performances in their lives that make them ready to play in any circumstance. Chelsea players get stick from every opposition crowd. No opposition crowd loves you or incentivises you. It's a London derby fuelled by emotion, and the fact Chelsea lost there [in October] in dramatic circumstances makes it an even more emotional game."
While Terry and Ferdinand will attract most attention, Villas-Boas confirmed the significance of this game to his side by reasserting his belief that the Premier League title is already way beyond them.
"It's absolutely impossible in the Premiership," he said. "The distance is massive and we don't expect this record- breaking leader to lose points. They're doing their job well. We have to find the consistency to get the best position in the league possible. This is what we will try to do. The FA Cup and the Champions League, they're trophies we will try and win and hope to win."
The Chelsea manager, meanwhile, has ruled out a move for Willian after Shakhtar Donetsk placed a £17m valuation on the Brazil midfielder. "It's an extremely interesting player, but I don't think we'll progress with our interest," said Villas-Boas. "Different issues, from work permit to price valuation."
However, he confirmed Chelsea's interest in Kevin De Bruyne although he admitted the Genk winger was a target identified by the club's scouting network and not himself.
"It's a target that's decided by the club, that I knew about for quite some time," he said. "He was under the scrutiny of the club for some time; we've been following this player. In the sense that it is the club policy for the future, it's the right thing [to buy him] and I'll do everything in my power for him to reach maximum potential. But it's down to the club in decision-making."
A move for De Bruyne is unlikely to be completed this month. Sao Paulo's 19-year-old Brazil international striker Lucas Moura is also a target for Chelsea.
QPR v Chelsea
QPR: Kenny, Onuouha, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Young, Wright-Phillips, Buzsaky, Barton, Mackie, Macheda, Helguson
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Meireles, Romeu, Ramires, Mata, Torres, Sturridge
Kick-off: 12pm (Highlights ITV 1, 10.45pm)
Ref: M Dean (Wirral)
Odds: Home 9-2; Draw 3-1, Away 8-13.
Last: FA Cup meeting 2008 Third round, Chelsea 1 Queen's Park Rangers 0.
Team news: Mark Hughes has doubts over Akos Buzsaky (achilles), while Danny Gabbidon, Matthew Connolly and Heidar Helguson are also struggling. Chelsea will field John Terry, but midfielders Frank Lampard (calf) and Jon Obi Mikel (hamstring) miss out for Andre Villas-Boas's side.