SHEFFIELD United have an outstanding record coming into Saturday`s clash against QPR at Loftus Road.
The visitors are now 12 games unbeaten on the road following the 2-1 win over Coventry City on Wednesday night, a statistic that broke a 120-year-old record according to boss Kevin Blackwell.
Paulo Sousa is under pressure to pick up results in W12 if newspaper reports are to be believed, and the home defeat against Norwich City during the week did little to stem the perceived mounting pressure on the Portuguese boss.
That made it six games without a win for Rangers and two defeats on the bounce as they face a resurgent Sheffield United outfit at Loftus Road.
The Blades have only suffered one defeat in their last six games, however that defeat was bitter blow as they lost at home to local rivals Sheffield Wednesday. Since then Kevin Blackwell`s men have won their last two fixtures and sit in fourth place, a mere six points off faltering Birmingham City in second place.
The loss of top goalscorer James Beattie to Premier League Stoke City was a blow for the Blades but the additions of Arturo Lupoli and Craig Beattie on loan from Fiorentina and West Bromwich Albion respectively has helped to bolster the United squad.
Other loan deals included John-Joe O`Toole and Leigh Bromby from Watford while Brian Howard made his deal from Barnsley permanent and Jamie Ward came in from Chesterfield for £330,000.
The Blades slumped away from the playoff places under the former West Brom and Middlesbrough boss Bryan Robson and installed Kevin Blackwell as boss in February last year. Since then their upsurge in form has been evident.
With Rangers recent poor home record providing supporters with ample frustration, the resurgent Blades will be looking to leave W12 with all three points as they roll into the capital tomorrow.
View From The Bench
Rangers boss Paulo Sousa told QPR.co.uk that he remained happy with his players despite a truly shocking home defeat to Norwich City.
He said: ‘I’m proud of the players tonight.
‘We lost against Ipswich without playing well, but tonight was different, because we controlled the game and created a lot of opportunities.
‘We played good football in very, very difficult conditions, but didn’t get what deserved. We need to keep our heads up and re-group for Saturday.’
Sheffield United manager Kevin Blackwell spoke to the sufc.co.uk following his side`s 2-1 away win over Coventry City on Wednesday night.
He said: ‘We started slowly but once we got a foothold we should have killed the game off, we had plenty of chances.
“Having said that, after they got their goal our lads were never going to let a second go in, that’s for sure – the victory is a great result for the whole squad.
‘I thought John-Joe was like a bowling ball when he came on – he was knocking them over like skittles! The lad is powerful and strong, so hopefully the fans can see why I brought him in and really take to his style of play.’
Defender Leigh Bromby spoke to sufc.co.uk after scoring his first goal for the Blades since his January return from Watford.
He said: ‘I don’t know if it went over the line or not, but the linesman gave it and that’s all that matters.
‘It was a professional away performance and three more points on the board. It is also great to see that the spirit is still at the club which is what I always remember from my first spell.’
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Paulo Sousa may be set to keep faith with the side that were disappointingly defeated at home by Norwich on Tuesday night. Should changes be made, the forward line would have to be the first port of call as Rangers have evidently struggled for goals in recent games.
A Radek Cerny howler cost the R`s midweek and a succession of errors throughout the game will be overlooked once more as he picks the Czech stopper over the out of favour goalkeeper Lee Camp.
The defensive unit made a key error on Tuesday night but nevertheless should not be tinkered with. Indeed against Sheffield United and Ipswich Town this season the Gorkss-Hall partnership has leaked numerous goals despite being good individual players.
Gary Borrowdale`s good performance midweek won`t be enough for him to make the bench in W12 as the Rangers missing man is yet to pull on a Rangers shirt since his move in December. Damien Delaney, and Matthew Connolly with slot into the full back berths with Damion Stewart partnering Kaspars Gorkss at the centre of defence.
Jordi López looks set to build upon a positive debut performance as he is in line to claim the holding role once more, with Mikele Leigertwood and Liam Miller playing just infront of him in the centre of midfield. That is of course if the R`s repeat the ineffectual formation adopted during the week.
Should Lee Cook be fit, he and Wayne Routledge will occupy the flanks, but if the self-professed Rangers fan is missing Routledge will pursue a free role behind two forwards between Dexter Blackstock, Samuel Di Carmine and Heidar Helguson. However following an excellent performance for the reserved during the week Angelo Balanta is being tipped to start against the side against whom he scored his first senior goal.
Long-term absentees Rowan Vine, Akos Buzsaky and Martin Rowlands will once again be missing from the sixteen while Patrick Agyemang will be looking to regain his fitness before rejoining the squad.
Player to watch: Jordi López
The R`s latest addition Jordi López had an excellent debut against Norwich City in stark contrast to the majority of the side who let themselves down in isolated incidents and lacking the consistency in front of goal.
López`s addition in the holding midfield role added a different dimension to the Rangers side, as it seems that Rangers have a player who can distribute the ball accurately and make things happen from a deep position.
The former Real Madrid and Barcelona man has also had spells with Mallorca and Racing Santander before moving to W12 and his introduction on Tuesday provided welcome relief from some inconsistent displays from the normally reliable Gavin Mahon.
Jordi will be looking for his first Rangers win as the R`s face Sheffield United tomorrow afternoon, and should the R`s be victorious he is sure to play a key role to put a dent in a formidable Blades away record.
To view López`s profile Click Here >>>
Sheffield United Team News:
Who R Ya?
Kevin Blackwell may well make a few changes from the side that narrowly defeated Coventry City on Wednesday night, as the game this weekend marks their fourth game in ten games.
Long-time Blades servant Paddy Kenny will remain in goal with his closest challenger Ian Bennett not deemed worthy of a place on the bench. In front of him United should be set to continue with goalscorer Leigh Bromby with youngster Kyle Naughton being pushed further forward.
Gary Naysmith will slot in at left back with the preferred partnership of Chris Morgan and reported QPR target Matthew Kilgallon set to continue in defence although youngster Kyle Walker has been knocking on the door in recent fixtures.
Depending on the formation that United opt for they could line-up with five across the midfield with Stephen Quinn, Nick Montgomery, John-Joe O`Toole and David Cotterill all competing for places along with Greg Halford, Brian Howard and Lee Hendrie.
There are a number of options upfront for United which may well prompt Blackwell to go with two upfront against an out of form QPR. Darius Henderson was supported by Howard from midfield against Coventry, but loanees Arturo Lupoli and Craig Beattie wait in the wings along with Rangers nemesis Danny Webber.
The Blades can boast a near fully fit squad as they prepare to face Rangers this weekend, with Billy Sharp the only omission as they look to cement their place in the playoff race while challenging a faltering top two in the Championship.
Team v Coventry City: Paddy Kenny, Leigh Bromby (Craig Beattie 80), Chris Morgan, Matthew Kilgallon, Gary Naysmith, Kyle Naughton, Stephen Quinn, Nick Montgomery, David Cotterill (Greg Halford 79), Brian Howard (John-Joe O’Toole 75), Darius Henderson.
Player to watch: John-Joe O’Toole
Vital QPR has singled out midfielder John-Joe O`Toole as the One to Watch ahead of the crucial clash tomorrow against Sheffield United
To view all the stats on the one to watch Click Here >>>
QPR: Last 5 Games: D L D L L
Sheffield United: Last 5 Games: D D L W W
QPR are going through a rough patch of late going six games without a win in total and six without a win at Loftus Road. You have to go back to December 20 for the R`s last home win as they visibly struggle in front of the home crowd.
Sheffield United broke a 120 year old record on Wednesday night as his side went 12 unbeaten away from home in the Championship, a run which dates back to October. They have suffered only one defeat in their last five games and have picked up two successive wins.
Lenny367 has all the stats in The Stat-Attack >>>.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Sheffield United: 13
Last Time Out
Saturday 16th August 2008 – Bramall Lane
Coca Cola Championship
Sheffield United 3 (Billy Sharp 3, 13, 51)
Rangers Team: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney, Fitz Hall, Kaspars Gorkss, Matthew Connolly, Mikele Leigertwood, Daniel Parejo, Lee Cook (Matteo Alberti 80 ), Emmanuel Ledesma, Angelo Balanta (Samuel Di Carmine 46 ), Dexter Blackstock.
See also: Sheffield United 1-2 QPR – 30-01-93.
See also: QPR 1-0 Sheffield United – 14-12-74.
Referee– Mr N Swarbrick
Assistants – Mr S J Phipps & Mr K G Yeo
Fourth official – Mr A Davies
Mr Neil Swarbrick from Lancashire will officiate the R`s clash with Sheffield United tomorrow afternoon.
To get all the stats on the official Click Here >>>.
Rangers now face an uphill battle if they are to make the playoffs, and after a defeat against Norwich City they now must bounce back against tough opposition in Sheffield United.
Against the Canaries Rangers created several chances but couldn`t dispatch some early efforts and were duly punished on the counter-attack. An early goal would do their confidence the world of good and may well secure a slender win; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-1 Rangers
Southernhoop`s Prediction: 2-1 United
Ranger1975`s Prediction: 1-1 Draw
ACE`s Prediction: 2-1 Rangers
Who– Doncaster Rovers
Where– Keepmoat Stadium
When– Tuesday 10th March 2009 – 7:45pm