RANGERS take a break from their league endeavours to concentrate on cup matters tomorrow as they look to cause an upset taking on Premier League high flyers Aston Villa.
Managed by Martin O`Neill and bankrolled by American billionaire Randy Lerner, Aston Villa will hope they can at last get back to being competitive for European places – and furthermore disturb the monopoly of the big four.
The Villains currently occupy a Champions League place in an impressive opening to the 08/09 campaign. Placing his faith in British talent, O`Neill has wasted no time in spending Lerner`s money to bring in James Milner from Newcastle United for £12,000,000, not to mention Luke Young from Charlton Athletic, Steven Sidwell from Chelsea, Nicky Shorey from Reading, and made the £8,000,000 deal for Curtis Davis permanent.
A squad which displays enormous strength in depth, with Villa playing and winning three games in the last six days, they will be put to the test once more facing the R`s on Wednesday before Sunderland at home on Saturday.
Villa look set to rotate their side with a view to progressing to the next round of the Carling Cup – a competition they last won in 1996, beating Leeds United 3-0 in the final.
Rangers first team coach Iain Dowie gave his assessment of the R`s defeat away to Coventry:
‘I’ve seen a lot today to convince me we’re a very good side,’ Dowie told QPR.co.uk
‘You can win games, and lose games, that happens but I can’t have any complaints with the performance, especially in the second half.’
‘Chris Coleman told me he thought we were excellent, and I don’t think anyone here today would disagree.’
‘The lads gave me everything, I thought we passed he ball really well in the second half and certainly deserved something for our efforts.’
Martin O`Neill was full of praise for his Aston Villa side, after their derby day victory over rivals West Brom:
‘It was a super performance and a super result. I thought we did brilliantly.` O`Neill told AVFC.co.uk
‘We did the damage early on with two great goals. We deserved to win because other than the goals we had several other good chances.
‘When the game opened up in the second half I thought we looked a real handful.`
The former Celtic boss was also full of praise for strike force John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor, not to mention summer addition Brad Friedel:
‘John Carew hit the post twice. If one of those had gone in, it would have given us a two-goal cushion. But it wasn’t to be.
‘I thought those two misses might come back to haunt us but thankfully they didn’t.`
‘Gabby’s goal was sensational. He has been brilliant for us. He played up by himself in Bulgaria and I thought he added a new dimension to his game there. He got his just rewards today.`
‘Brad’s save in the first half was very important too because at that stage they were back in the game.`
‘He wasn’t happy with himself for their goal but he made up for it with that save. It was vital to go in at the break 2-1 rather than 2-2.’
Aston Villa Team News:
As alluded to above, Aston Villa may rotate their squad in the League Cup clash against Queens Park Rangers.
That is not to say it would weaken their starting line-up with a plethora of talent on display in a strong Premier League squad. First choice defensive duo Martin Laursen and Curtis Davis could be set to continue, but £8,000,000 summer signing Carlos Cuellar waits in the wings along with former Fulham defender Zat Knight.
England international Gareth Barry may be given a well-earned rest after showing signs of tiring against West Brom, with a whole host of players capable of covering. Former West Ham United player Nigel Reo-Cocker could come in alongside Steven Sidwell who is set to return from injury.
James Milner is cup tied due to playing for Newcastle United away at Coventry in the competition – he may be replaced by former R`s target Wayne Routledge.
Finally the goalkeeper`s jersey may change hands as summer signing Brad Guzan may be given a go between the sticks in place of ever-present Brad Friedel.
In truth there are many variations to Villa`s perceived line-up for the Carling Cup tie, whatever line-up does take to the field at Villa Park, you can be sure the side will be capable of causing the R`s untold woe.
Player to watch: Ashley Young
Vital QPR has singled out Ashley Young as The One To Watch going into this evenings clash against Aston Villa.
To read the report on Young Click Here >>>
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Rangers look set to field a strong line-up for what will undoubtedly be the sternest test of their resilience thus far.
Evidently Iain Dowie will be reluctant to deviate from the 4-5-1 formation that has served him well during his managerial tenure in W12 thus far, and Dexter Blackstock remains uncontested in the lone striker`s role.
Following the R`s vast improvement in play following the introduction of Akos Buzsaky and Daniel Parejo on Saturday – one or both of them could be in line to start the fixture tomorrow night.
Matthew Connolly has served his one match suspension and will be ready to deputise for Peter Ramage, the former Newcastle man was withdrawn for precautionary measures against the Sky Blues on Saturday, but Connolly has proven an able deputy as has central midfielder Mikele Leigertwood.
Rangers newest addition, Damiano Tommasi, is getting closer to match fitness, but with Rangers` midfield department seemingly bursting at the seams, he won`t be risked before he is truly ready for action.
Player to watch: Daniel Parejo
In the Spanish starlet on loan from Real Madrid, Rangers have a potential match winner. Despite not scoring thus far this campaign, Parejo has impressed with his vast array of passing and his ability to create space from nowhere.
The Spanish Under 21 international appears lethal from set-pieces, and he has a wise head on such young shoulders, showing intelligence on the pitch that belies his years.
He hasn`t quite been given the freedom that a player of his ability could enjoy, but come Wednesday, Parejo may be ready to unleash his visible frustration on Premier League opposition, and announce his arrival in true style.
Match Facts & Stats
Rangers progressed into Round Three thanks courtesy of wins away at Swindon, and then a more convincing display at home to Carlisle in the Second Round to set up the tie against Premier League Villa.
The R`s away form has been nothing short of abysmal in the calendar year of 2008. Indeed the R`s have only picked up two wins most recently a battling display to defeat Norwich a week ago tomorrow.
Aston Villa have been in excellent form of late, as they have made a positive start to the season. Losing away to Stoke City has been a minor blip in an otherwise decent start.
Three wins in the last three games in all competitions has propelled Villa into fourth in the Premier League, whilst all but confirming their place in the next round of the UEFA Cup.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Aston Villa: 17
Last time out
22nd September 2004 – Villa Park
Carling Cup – Round Two
Aston Villa 3 (Vassell 29, Angel 38, Solano 78)
QPR 1 (McLeod 48)
Rangers Team: Chris Day, Marcus Bignot, Danny Shittu, Arthur Gnohere (Georges Santos 73), Richard Edghill, Martin Rowlands (Lee Cook 74), Richard Johnson (Paul Furlong 46), Serge Branco, Kevin McLeod, Kevin Gallen, Jamie Cureton.
See Also: QPR v Aston Villa 1984-85.
Referee– Mr. L S Mason
Assistants – Mr. J Colin & Mr. P J Kirkup
Fourth official – Mr. S J Bratt
Lee Mason will officiate Rangers clash with Coventry at the weekend.
To get all the stats concerning the official click here.
This was always going to be a tough fixture, on paper the tie should be Villa`s for the taking. However when you look at the amount of match-winners the R`s have at their disposal, you can never count them out; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-2 Rangers Win On Penalties
Who– Derby County
Where– Loftus Road
When– Saturday 27th September 2008, 3:00pm.