Hoddle confident weakened Chelsea can defeat QPR


GLENN HODDLE believes his Chelsea team are playing their best football since he became manager of the club 30 months ago.

Star striker Mark Hughes and skipper Dennis Wise are both ruled out of tonight's English FA Cup, fourth round, clash at neighbouring QPR as they are suspended.

But Hoddle is backing his Blues to overcome that hurdle and head for another trip to Wembley.

"Looking at us now, people can no longer say we are a one, two or even three man team," says Hoddle, who took his squad for a three day break in Spain as part of the preparation for the cup tie.

"A lot of people said we would really struggle when Ruud Gullit was injured in November, but in fact we have lost only one of our last 13 games.

"It is wonderful to have a player of Ruud's quality back with us now, but we've proved we can cope without him - and we'll also cope without Mark and - Dennis.

"It is always a blow to lose good players, but as far as I'm concerned it now offers the chance to give other people opportunities.

"Paul Furlong and Gavin Peacock have been unlucky to be out of the side and it has been tough to make those decisions, but I can now call on them with a lot of confidence.

"It has reached the stage now where I sit on the bench being entertained by the football we are playing.

"Of course there is always a bit of tension for a manager, but can safely say I am enjoying watching the side. If that's the case then other people must also be enjoying it.

"I always want my team to play good football and in the last few months they have got closer than ever before to what I want from them.

"Even when we reached the FA Cup final two seasons ago and semi final of the European Cup Winners' Cup last season, we were not playing as well as this."

Rangers manager Ray Wilkins installed his players at a local health club to sharpen their resolve for the battle of wits with his former England team mate.

QPR are now facing a desperate relegation fight after losing, their last five league games, although Wilkins has faith in his youthful team.

Youngsters like Matthew Brazier (19), and Trevor Challis (20), have established themselves in the side and Challis says: "The boss is always working on building up our confidence and telling us we have the ability to compete with anyone in the league.

"When he and Mark Hateley are in the side they give us vital experience and we are all sure it will produce results soon.

"Certainly, I thought Chelsea were very lucky to beat us in the league match three weeks or so ago and you've only to study their results to know they are one of the form teams at present.

"If we can turn it round against them in the cup it may be just the spark we need to get our season up and running again."