London. Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo has confirmed John Terry and Ashley Cole are expected to take part in the potentially explosive pre-match handshake with QPR’s Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Terry and Cole have recovered from the ankle injuries which ruled them out of England’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on Tuesday and that means the duo are in line for a showdown with QPR defender Ferdinand.
In July, Chelsea captain Terry was cleared in court of racially abusing Ferdinand during a Premier League match at QPR last year, with Cole giving evidence as a character witness for his team-mate.
Terry, who was stripped of the England armband by the Football Association before his trial, is still facing a separate FA charge over the incident and that hearing is expected to begin on September 24.
Ferdinand, Terry and Cole are set to come face to face on Saturday for the first time since the trial and the Premier League have insisted the pre-match handshake, which was cancelled ahead of the clubs’ last two meetings, will go ahead.
“There has been dialogue between the Premier League, Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea in relation to Saturday’s match between the two clubs,” read a Premier League statement.
“All parties understand and acknowledge that the pre-match handshake will go ahead as part of the normal pre-match activity.”
Reports in the build-up to the West London derby claim Ferdinand is planning to ignore Terry and Cole during the traditional greeting, while some of his QPR teammates may also refuse to shake hands with the Chelsea defenders.
With bad feeling still lingering, Chelsea and QPR officials have held talks in a bid to defuse the tension, but Di Matteo insists his players will all take part in the handshake as usual.
“We’ll go ahead with it, yes,” Di Matteo said on Friday.
“We’re going to respect the rules and the protocol that is in place from the Premier League and set a positive standard to the millions of people watching across the world.”
“They’ve recovered [from injury], had a couple of days training and we expect them to be available for tomorrow (Saturday).”
Di Matteo revealed he had held talks with QPR manager Mark Hughes, a former teammate of the Italian at Chelsea, but did not know whether the home players would snub Terry and Cole.
“I do not know, but I hope that they will as well respect the rules and go ahead with it and we can all focus on the football,” Di Matteo added.
QPR striker Bobby Zamora has indicated he would shake the hand of Terry, whom he played alongside at schoolboy level.
“I’ve known John Terry for years and he’s a very good friend of mine,” Zamora told The Sun. “We grew up together and of course I’ll shake his hand if he’s playing on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, QPR boss Hughes confirmed he has spoken to Ferdinand and the rest of his squad about the issue, but he wouldn’t reveal what was said.
“We’ve had a discussion with the players but that’s between myself and them. We don’t have to broadcast that,” Hughes said.
“Everybody has a mind of their own and will make a personal decision. It’s unfortunate that they’re in a situation where it’s in the public domain. Anton is fine, there’s no problem with him.”
Hughes hinted he would prefer it if the handshake ritual was scrapped completely.
“I’ve got my own views on the handshake and I raised those at Premier League level even before this season started,” he said. “We’ll be guided by the Premier League and will respect the handshake if we’re told that’s what needs to happen.”