PAUL Hart will look to build on his side’s pleasing performance as Queens Park Rangers host a Bristol City side struggling for form on Boxing Day.
The turkey and mince pies have been digested, the arguments around the Christmas table have died down and it’s back to the business of sneaking away from the mother-in-law to take in a festive fixture.
There’s been little Christmas cheer at Ashton Gate as after a positive start to the season, their form has since waned – only one win in eight games has seen them slip to ninth in the Championship.
In QPR they face a side out of sorts, but full of the joy of prosperity as they welcome another new manager to the helm – only one win in nine for Rangers who sit a point behind Bristol City.
Hart’s men have pulled off impressive back to back points against Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion, and now they have their sights on the Robins, who themselves will be looking for their first double of the season.
Early season promise was displayed by both sides at Ashton Gate earlier in the season as despite being beaten QPR put in a classy second half display to come up inches short of their West Country counterparts.
A rivalry that has bubbled nicely under the surface since the promotion challenging days of Division Two is sure to resurface as both sides go all out for an important victory at Loftus Road.
QPR 1 (Leigertwood 2)
Sheffield United 1 (Cresswell 8)
Team: Radek Černý, Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Mikele Leigertwood, Wayne Routledge, Patrick Agyemang, Kaspars Gork?s, Ben Watson, Tom Williams, Jay Simpson (Rowan Vine 68), Adel Taarabt.
Bristol City 1 (Hartley 13pen)
Reading 1 (Church 90)
Team: Dean Gerken, Bradley Orr, Liam Fontaine, Lewin Nyatanga, Jamie McAllister, Louis Carey, Cole Skuse, Evander Sno (Marvin Elliott 62 (Gavin Williams 85)), Paul Hartley, David Clarkson (Alvaro Saborio 70), Nicky Maynard.
QPR Team News:
Paul Hart did something that Jim Magilton seldom did this weekend – he named an unchanged line-up. It certainly paid dividends from his perspective against Sheffield United, so limited changes if any should be in store for Boxing Day.
Radek Černý will start between the sticks as Kaspars Gork?s and Fitz Hall look set to link up despite the return of Matt Connolly, in the face of Damion Stewart’s suspension.
Connolly could return at full-back where Peter Ramage didn’t put in his best display at the weekend, while Tom Williams is destined to retain his spot at left-back after a stunning performance at left-back.
Mikele Leigertwood and Ben Watson should remain the preferred choice in midfield with Ákos Buzsáky (knee) sidelined and Alejandro Faurlín and Steven Reid having to be patient for their return.
Depending on what formation Hart deploys, Jay Simpson could once again play wide with Wayne Routledge on the other flank and Adel Taarabt behind lone front-man Patrick Agyemang.
Simpson however could be withdrawn for either Rowan Vine or Angelo Balanta, or even be involved in a straight switch with Taarabt in a 4-4-2 formation.
Martin Rowlands (knee), Gavin Mahon (knee) and Lee Cook (knee) remain sidelined.
Possible line up:
Ramage – Hall – Gork?s – Williams
Routledge – Watson – Leigertwood – Simpson
Player to watch: Adel Taarabt
Taarabt has certainly looked for goals of late, and cannot be accused of ignoring his attacking credentials.
His shoot on sight policy has pushed him to the heights of the shooting charts, with little return for his side.
The Moroccan international will be hoping that Boxing Day could see his resurgence in form and goals as Bristol City visit Loftus Road.
To read his career profile Click Here >>>
Bristol City Team News:
Who R Ya? >>>
Gary Johnson may well shuffle his back after disappointing late heartbreak against Reading, and criticising his players after the final whisle.
Dean Gerken will continue in goal, with Stephen Henderson deputising and Adriano Basso seemingly on his way out of the club.
Johnson deployed a back five for the draw against Reading with Louis Carey, Lewis Nyatanga and Liam Fontaine the back three with Bradley Orr and Jamie McAllister being used as wing-backs.
Cole Skuse, Paul Hartley and Evander Sno were the preferred three in the middle, with the latter’s replacement, Marvin Elliott, undergoing tests for a knee injury picked up during the clash.
Lee Johnson and Gavin Williams will attempt to break into a midfield spot after struggling Reading managed to engineer themselves the majority of chances last weekend.
Alvaro Saborio will be looking to break the David Clarkson and Nicky Maynard partnership, with the pace of Danny Haynes a useful weapon, most probably to be used from the bench.
The only other long-term absentees Brian Wilson (shin) and Ivan Sproule (hamstring) – the latter will remain sidelined for the next fortnight with the complaint picked up against Doncaster.
Orr – Nyatanga – Carey – Fontaine – McAllister
Skuse – Hartley – Sno
Saborio – Maynard
Player to watch: TBA
The Stat Attack
Queens Park Rangers: D L L D D
Bristol City: L D W L D
HEAD 2 HEAD
Queens Park Rangers: 30
Bristol City: 25
LAST TIME OUT
Coca Cola Championship – 18-08-2009
Bristol City 1 (Maynard 78)
Queens Park Rangers: 0
Team: Radek Černý, Peter Ramage, Fitz Hall, Damion Stewart, Gary Borrowdale, Wayne Routledge, Mikele Leigertwood, Alejandro Damián Faurlín (Heidar Helguson 85), Ákos Buzsáky, Adel Taarabt (Rowan Vine 66), Patrick Agyemang (Alessandro Pellicori 67).
QPR 1-0 Bristol City – 07-10-1978
Referee: Mr David Phillips (Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Gary Jerden (Essex) & Mr Wade Norcott (Essex)
Fourth Official: Mr Lee Collins (Surrey)
Mr David Phillips will take charge of the R’s Boxing Day clash with Bristol City, in only the third Championship game of his career.
Having only been on the National List of Referees since 2007, Phillips started by doing predominantly Conference fixtures, then into Leagues One and Two last season.
Fixtures at Watford and Peterborough this season has seen him rise up the ladder as he looks to continue his run and the promise of more second tier fixtures.
To read our report on the official Click Here >>>
The organisation of the defence at the weekend was something that Mick Harford underlined in terms of importance, and for the large part the new-found organisation was shown.
A couple of isolated incidents combined with Bristol City’s prowess doesn’t fill me with the confidence that the visitors won’t strike at least a consolation, but the R’s do have an abundance of attacking talents themselves.
Taarabt, Routledge and Simpson to name but three have starred this season, but have not shown that killer instinct in recent fixtures – maybe their time will come against the Robins on Boxing Day.
Therefore I think that while some lingering doubts with defenders may remain, Rangers have enough in their armour to see off an equally off form Bristol City.
Teams: Ipswich Town v QPR
Date: Monday December 28, 2009 – 3.00pm
Ground: Portman Road, Ipswich