Terry, Ferdinand to face off in west London derby
LONDON (AP) -Two months after facing each other in court, John Terry and Anton Ferdinand are set to meet again on the football pitch as English Premier League leader Chelsea visits fierce local rival Queens Park Rangers in the weekend's standout match.
In a case that highlighted the foul language used in football, Terry was cleared of racially abusing Ferdinand in last season's corresponding match between the west London clubs in October.
Terry, the Chelsea and England defender, is awaiting the outcome of an FA charge relating to the same case and all eyes will be on the traditional pre-match handshake on Saturday between the teams, which was scrapped on two occasions last season on legal advice.
The Premier League currently intends to go ahead with the pre-match ritual, although there remains the strong possibility that Ferdinand may snub Terry and Chelsea defender Ashley Cole, who gave evidence on Terry's behalf in court.
That will revive memories of the failure of Luis Suarez to shake hands with Patrice Evra in last season's high-profile league match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Old Trafford, following a racism row between the players.
QPR and Chelsea are widely reported to be in talks about how to handle the handshake routine, which will come minutes before Chelsea attempts to make it four wins from four in the league this season.
QPR, which views its neighbor as its biggest rival, would love nothing more than to end Chelsea's perfect run, having beaten the European champions 1-0 in October.
"This is the one everyone really wants to be involved in,'' said QPR forward Jamie Mackie, whose team is next to last in the standings with just one point from three games. "As players, you relish games like this and I know the fans will be feeling exactly the same.
"Last season's victory was fantastic for everyone involved, but that's the past now and it's up to us to try and replicate that result this weekend.''
With a hostile atmosphere expected at Loftus Road, Chelsea released a statement on Thursday - under the headline "The Right Rivalry'' - calling on fans from both clubs to show respect during the match and saying that "abuse and discrimination'' have no place in a football stadium.
Terry and Cole missed England's 1-1 draw with Ukraine in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday because of ankle injuries, but both are back in training.
Chelsea has a maximum nine points to be two clear of Swansea, West Bromwich and defending champion Manchester City after three rounds.
While it could be a brief stay in the top four for Swansea and West Brom, City is expected to last the course but faces a tough test Saturday when it travels to Stoke.
Michael Owen, who joined Stoke on a free transfer last week after his release by Man United, may be make his debut alongside another striker out of favor with England's national team - Peter Crouch - in a little-and-large combination.
"I feel as if I am fit enough to take part in a game,'' Owen said. "I'm not quite 100 percent confident or happy in my general touch and different bits and bobs, but that will come.
"So we'll see what the manager has got in mind, but I'd like to think I'll improve as the weeks go on.''
The match at Britannia Stadium could be the first chance for fans to see City's Aug. 31 deadline-day signings in action, with Brazil right back Maicon, British Olympic winger Scott Sinclair and Spain midfielder Javi Garcia all in contention to start.
United, which is a point behind City, is favored to claim its third win in four matches when it hosts Wigan at Old Trafford. The team is set to have Robin van Persie available after the Dutchman's thigh injury sustained on international duty on Tuesday was described as less serious than first feared by Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal.
Van Persie has scored four goals in three appearances since joining from Arsenal in the offseason for 24 million pounds, with three coming in the 3-2 comeback win against Southampton before the international break. Wayne Rooney remains sidelined for United because of a leg injury.
Liverpool sits in the relegation zone after its worst league start in 50 years heading into an away match at Sunderland.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Arsenal is at home to last-place Southampton, Swansea visits Aston Villa, West Brom goes to Fulham and Norwich hosts West Ham.
Tottenham travels to Reading on Sunday, with manager Andre Villas-Boas already under pressure at Spurs after failing to win any of his first three games in charge.
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