The Chelsea manager, Roberto Di Matteo, promised the club would "set a positive standard" by following the Premier League protocol after it was confirmed last night that the handshake before today's game at Queen's Park Rangers will go ahead.
Before the clubs last played in April, the handshake was suspended. This was following dialogue between the Premier League and the two clubs and was because of a fear of prejudicing John Terry's pending trial for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand – at which he was cleared – during a game between the two sides at Loftus Road last year.
Terry is to face a Football Association hearing on the issue later this month, but the planned handshake will go ahead this afternoon. "There has been dialogue between the Premier League, Queen's Park Rangers and Chelsea in relation to tomorrow's match between the two clubs," an official league statement read. "All parties understand and acknowledge that the pre-match handshake will go ahead as part of the normal pre-match activity."
A relaxed and focused Di Matteo said earlier that Chelsea would proceed with the handshake in the traditional manner: "From our point of view, we are 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."
"It is in place, so we respect it," Di Matteo added. "The game would still go on if it was not in place. It just gives a good outlook to the people that there is one beforehand, and everybody will focus on the game."
Di Matteo discussed the issue with Queen's Park Rangers' manager, Mark Hughes, at a recent Premier League managers' meeting, and does not expect the players to provide an unnecessary distraction.
"I know Sparky very well and we touch base every now and again and speak," he said. "Hopefully, everybody will focus on football [today] and move on. That's the most important aspect. The Premier League is watched all over the world now and we have to set a good positive standard for everyone watching. The handshake is just part of that, part of the Respect campaign."
Although Di Matteo did not confirm that Terry would play, he acknowledged Terry's ability to play through controversy unfazed. "As a human being there are certain aspects of life that will faze you, but if you look at his career he's always got on with it," Di Matteo said. "He's a confident player. I wouldn't have any hesitation in that sense."
The game, a local derby, will be an intense one. "It's always a difficult game for us, going to Loftus Road," Di Matteo acknowledged. "We haven't won there in the league for many years, and it'll be very challenging playing there."
The Chelsea manager has no worries, though, about throwing his new signings into that environment. "It's wonderful to be involved in games like that, where the tension is so high, the pressure is there, and you fight over league points," Di Matteo said. "I rather want to focus on the positive aspect of playing in such games. These players [Eden Hazard, Oscar, Cesar Azpilicueta] have been involved in many big games before, so it wouldn't be the first time they've played a match like this."
Di Matteo also defended the club's position regarding Florent Malouda, who is training with the Under-21s after not taking any of the offers made to him for a move during the summer. "You want players who are fully committed and want to go with you for the cause and the targets you set yourselves," Di Matteo explained. "There was a decision made and we stick with it."Reuse content