THE day that football fans have waited for with baited breath is just around the corner as Queens Park Rangers host Ian Holloway`s Blackpool in the Championship curtain-raiser.
The former QPR boss returns to Loftus Road with his third different club in a bid to maintain his positive record against Rangers.
Holloway, who took the R`s to promotion in 2004, has only been defeated once since his return to W12, and that coupled with Blackpool`s positive recent displays in W12 make for a tough clash.
An excellent pre-season for the Tangerines was rounded off with a 2-1 home victory over Everton, momentum that Holloway will be looking to take into the new season.
Bolstering their squad with further attacking options in Jason Euell and Billy Clark from Southampton and Ipswich Town respectively, along with the club record transfer of Charlie Adam from Glasgow Rangers aided by the money of Latvian magnate Valeri Belokon.
This is tempered by the loss of Shaun Barker in a £1,000,000 move to Derby County – someone who they have yet to replace in the back-line.
The return of Holloway adds some extra spice to a fixture that is already simmering as fans await that first kick, first tackle and first taste of Championship action.
QPR 3 (Gorkss 9, Balanta 34, Taarabt 70)
Team: Marshall, Ramage (Ainsworth 77), Borrowdale (Brown 77), Mahon (Alberti 77), Hall (Stewart 69), Gorkss, Routledge (Ephraim 69), Rowlands, Vine (Taarabt 63), Balanta (Pellicori 77), Agyemang (Helguson 46).
Blackpool 2 (Vaughan, Euell)
Everton 1 (Jo)
Team: Halstead, Baptiste (Nowland 45), Edwards (Eastham 69), Evatt (Haining 45), Crainey (Martin 67), Southern (Mitchley 77), Adam (Hudson 45), Euell (Demontagnac 45), Taylor-Fletcher (De Lucas 45), Vaughan (Ormerod 45), Burgess (Nardiello 45).
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Queens Park Rangers have some doubts over a couple of players going into tomorrow`s clash. Definitely missing are attacking duo Lee Cook (knee) and Alejandro Faurlín (thigh), with doubts remaining over Mikele Leigertwood (thigh), Matthew Connolly (calf) and Akos Buzsaky (thigh).
Rangers are due to line-up with Radek Cerny in goal with Peter Ramage and Gary Borrowdale due to start at full back. Jim Magilton must choose between Fitz Hall and Damion Stewart to partner the in-form Kaspars Gorkss at the heart of the Rangers rearguard.
Wayne Routledge will start on the right flank, with Angelo Balanta pressing his cause for a start on the left despite an impressive display from the bench by Adel Taarabt against Southampton. Martin Rowlands and Gavin Mahon looked to have sewn up their place in the middle.
The strike force will have undoubtedly troubled Magilton, who has already made his team selection for the fixture. He had to decide between Patrick Agyemang, Heidar Helguson and Italian Alessandro Pellicori to partner certain starter Rowan Vine.
Strength in depth will be key for the R`s with seven substitutes in use in the Football League for the first time. Hogan Ephraim and Matteo Alberti destined to be bench warming and waiting to light up the fixture at a moment`s notice.
Player to watch: Rowan Vine
The former Portsmouth man will be looking to start the season with a bang having missed the majority of the last campaign with a broken leg. The striker has displayed some excellent touches pre-season and judging by the warm-ups he could be seen as the ‘fox in the box` that the R`s so desperately needed last season.
He displayed his great potential alongside strike partner Patrick Agyemang under Luigi De Canio, but with his progress stifled last time out Rangers struggled in front of goal. His return to the side last season coincided in an upturn in form – epitomised by the excellent come-back at home to Sheffield Wednesday.
The striker who likes to run at defenders from deep could cause havoc for the likes of Ian Evatt and Stephen Crainey whose pace and skill are certainly not plus points in their otherwise talented repertoire. Indeed Wayne Routledge ran riot at Bloomfield Road against both the now departed Ian Harte and Crainey, giving them both a torrid time.
If Vine was able to tap into this fear in an under-strength Blackpool rearguard it could be the key to unlocking the door and giving Rangers a winning start to a crucial campaign.
Blackpool Team News:
Who R Ya? >>>
Blackpool are set to name a similar side that triumphed over Premier League Everton in a pre-season friendly at Bloomfield Road.
Paul Rachubka is set to return between the sticks despite a useful performance from Mark Halstead against the Toffees, with Alex Baptiste nailing down his place at right full-back after some impressive attacking displays.
On the other flank Stephen Crainey is relatively unchallenged with former QPR defender Ian Evatt and Rob Edwards partnering at the heart of the rearguard. Competition has come from Will Haining in pre-season and Holloway must made a decision with regards to the trialist`s future.
Further trialists Ishmael Demontagnac and former Chelsea player Enrique de Lucas will be hoping to impress sufficiently in time to sign for Saturday`s clash. Jason Euell has dropped back into midfield in recent times with Keith Southern pushing forward from defence.
There is great competition for places in the midfield with David Vaughan and record capture Charlie Adam also pushing for a starting place at Loftus Road.
Up front Daniel Nardiello was handed a second chance at Bloomfield Road following his move from QPR, with Brett Ormerod, Ben Burgess and Gary Taylor Fletcher all competing for a spot.
They`ll have to do it without Danny Coid who suffered a fracture of his shin bone in the pre-season clash against Rochdale, while Stephen McPhee remains sidelined with a long-term injury.
Player to watch: Ben Burgess
Vital QPR has outlined man-mountain striker Ben Burgess as the One to Watch ahead of this weekend`s clash with the Tangerines.
Ben has always caused problems at Loftus Road and scored twice against QPR in the 2007-08 season, including the winner at Bloomfield Road in the final minute.
To read our profile of the striker Click Here >>>
HEAD 2 HEAD
Queens Park Rangers: 13
LAST TIME OUT
Coca Cola Championship – 27-01-09
Queens Park Rangers: 3 (Helguson 17, 58pen, Ephraim 90)
Team: Lee Camp, Matthew Connolly (Fitz Hall 88), Damion Stewart, Kaspars Gorkss, Damien Delaney, Wayne Routledge, Lee Cook, Mikele Leigertwood, Gavin Mahon, Liam Miller (Hogan Ephraim 54), Heidar Helguson (Dexter Blackstock 75)
Queens Park Rangers 6-1 Blackpool – 26-08-1969
Referee: Mr A P D`Urso
Assistants: Mr L Betts & Mr D Buck
Fourth Official: Mr D D Bushell
Andy D`Urso from Billericay will referee the first clash of the campaign tomorrow and has a good pedigree in refereeing Rangers over the years.
To read our report on the official Click Here >>>
The R`s will be looking to get off to a positive start under Jim Magilton and the supporters have waited with baited breath for the opening day after a positive pre-season campaign.
Blackpool will provide sturdy opposition, and they don`t come much more tough than Ian Holloway – couple this with his first game in charge and a return to Loftus Road and the R`s will face a tough test.
It is my opinion that Blackpool`s weak-point is their defence which has not been strengthened during the summer, and even a profligate Rangers hit three past them at Bloomfield Road and proved they were vulnerable to pace in behind.
Boxer: 2-0 QPR
Sandydl: 2-0 QPR
Toboboly: 2-1 QPR
bunceyboy: 3-0 QPR
beforerodney: 3-0 QPR
Clonmany_Hoop: 4-1 QPR
Superhoop50: 1-0 QPR
LeeCookFan: 2-1 QPR
Paula_Hoops: 2-0 QPR
griffqpr: 2-1 QPR
CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTION LEAGUE >>>
BEAT THE CLOCK
Teams: Exeter City v Queens Park Rangers
Date: Tuesday August 11, 2009
Ground: St James Park, Exeter