AFTER the euphoria of back to back away wins Queens Park Rangers host one of the Championship`s form sides.
Five goals in two away games has banished the R`s poor recent away record to 2008, as they have now matched the amount of wins secured in a poor year away from W12.
Goals from the impressive Wayne Routledge and Mikele Leigertwood was enough to fend off Nigel Clough`s Derby County, before Rangers took Blackpool by storm midweek with Hogan Ephraim adding to a Heidar Helguson brace.
Reading by comparison are beginning to prove why they are one of the favourites for the title this season, as they lay siege to the seemingly insurmountable points gap that Wolves had created at the summit.
Second placed Reading have cut the lead down to two points and appear champions in the making with Wolves resuming their annual battle against promotion and Birmingham City failing to live up to pre-season expectations. The Royals have emerged as a true force simply because they can string a positive set of results together.
The side who sport blue and white stripes can also boast a wealth of attacking prowess and are the top scorers in the Championship at present. Striker Kevin Doyle is the top goalscorer in the Championship with 17 goals added to by 10 goals from summer addition Noel Hunt.
The Royals have conceded 26 goals so far this season, which is the joint best with Birmingham City and Cardiff City – with Rangers conceding one goal more with 27. An injury crisis has prompted Steve Coppell to use youth product Alex Pearce alongside veteran Michael Duberry in a somewhat makeshift rearguard.
Rangers new found attacking endeavour combined with their already defensive competencies make gives this match the potential of being a classic infront of a packed house in W12.
QPR boss Paulo Sousa spoke to QPR.co.uk following his sides triumphant away win over Blackpool at Bloomfield Road.
He said: ‘It’s a great night for us.
‘We all believe, as a squad of players, and when you believe you achieve,
‘This is a significant victory, our second away from home in a row. Two cleans sheets and five goals is a very good return and one I am proud of.’
Sousa added: ‘The team is building up well and I think we are improving with each game at the moment.
‘I was particularly pleased with the first goal – it showed plenty of skill in the build-up and the finish.’
Reading manager Steve Coppell was proud of his Reading side as they cut Wolves` lead at the top to two points, but reminded his side to guard against complacency.
He said: ‘It makes you feel better and there’s a good feeling in the dressing room, but is it going to be significant on Saturday when we go to Loftus Road? Absolutely not.
‘We realise we have to get our head down for this weekend. At the moment it’s just purely and simply three points.
‘Whether it gives us the momentum I don’t know. We certainly stalled against Swansea a couple of weeks back and they are the team who appear to be playing irresistible football in this league at the moment.
‘Each and every match in this division is such a challenge. There is still more than a third of the season left and so much can happen.
‘We’re very grateful for the three points this give us, but we’re mindful that there’s a long way to go.’
He added to The Telegraph: ‘There is a third of the season to go and it is all to play for. I see it as psychologically important but not significant as to who goes up. It is three points and at this stage it doesn’t matter who it comes against.’
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Rangers will be without left-winger Lee Cook who picked up his fifth yellow card against Blackpool on Tuesday. His ludicrous decision to kick the ball from the goalkeepers arms earned him an easy booking from substitute referee Mr Bond.
Lee Camp is due to retain his place between the sticks with first choice stopper Radek Cerny nursing a hamstring strain. Nik-Lee Bulmer deputised on Tuesday – however a more experienced goalkeeper will be preferred on the bench should Sousa decide to include a second stopper.
The back four will remain the same with from right to left, Matthew Connolly, Damion Stewart, Kaspars Gorkss and Damien Delaney. The defensive department have put in some accomplished performances of late and will be looking for a third successive clean sheet.
The remainder of the side will depend on which system Paulo Sousa chooses to adopt. As the R`s are the hosts he may well employ a 4-4-2 formation or even revert to the diamond formation in light of the omission of Cook.
Wayne Routledge, Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Liam Miller and Hogan Ephraim make up the current midfield crop, and in all likeliness Sousa will want to keep one in reserve and opt to play four across the middle. Matteo Alberti and Emmanuel Ledesma continue to wait in the wings for a possible return.
Heidar Helguson is destined to retain his starting berth, and he may well have a strike partner if Dexter Blackstock is deemed worthy of a start. Samuel Di Carmine will also prowl the periphery in search of first team action.
Player to watch: Wayne Routledge
Rangers have found a real talent in the former Tottenham Hotspur man, as he looks to recapture the form that saw him shoot to fame with Crystal Palace.
In three games he has shown Rangers fans his vast capabilities, displaying his pace and direct running combined with an eye for goal. His goal against Derby displayed his goalscoring talents and he has given Mo Camara and Ian Harte torrid times in their full back roles.
His pace is a formidable strength that he intelligently uses to his advantage, knocking the ball round his opponent before ghosting past them in a flash. Two assists for Routledge so far in three games shows he is not only adept at scoring but more importantly creating chances for others from wide areas.
Reading Team News:
The Royals have bolstered their depleted defence with the addition of Dan Harding on loan from Ipswich Town until the end of the season. He will join another new signing Jay Tabb in the squad for Saturday`s fixture in W12.
Curiously enough the £600k signing from Coventry City didn`t feature in the crunch match against Wolves, but looks set to join the squad to play at Loftus Road for the second time this month.
Ivar Ingimarsson also missed the Wolves clash after suffering a knee injury in training but the Royals central defender is hopeful of making the trip to QPR. Should he be unable to play Alex Pearce will deputise once more.
Julian Kelly will make way for the returning Liam Rosenior, who served a one-match ban for his dismissal against Swansea. Liam is the son of former QPR forward Leroy Rosenior, and also scored the winning penalty against the R`s in the LDV Vans Trophy First Round penalty shootout at Loftus Road.
Undoubtedly the biggest threat will come from the attacking quartet of Jimmy Kebe, Kevin Doyle and brothers Stephen and Noel Hunt who have scored 34 goals between them. With R`s target Leroy Lita waiting in the wings alongside Shane Long it makes for a tough day for the Rangers rearguard.
Player to watch: Kevin Doyle
Vital QPR has singled out Irish international Kevin Doyle as the One to Watch ahead of tomorrow`s clash with Reading
To view all the stats on the one to watch Click Here >>>.
Match Facts & Stats
QPR: Last 5 Games: D D D W W
Reading: Last 5 Games: D D W L W
Rangers have started to perform under a delighted Paulo Sousa who has only incurred one league defeat in 11 outings and are currently undefeated in seven games. Back to back away wins have propelled Rangers into playoff contention. Rangers have only lost two games at Loftus Road the last being in November against Burnley.
The undefeated month of December helped fire the Royals into automatic promotion places, with the Royals winning five games on the bounce – the final of which was against rivals Birmingham City. The loss away at Swansea City is sandwiched with wins over Wolves and a crushing 4-0 victory over relegation candidates Watford.
Lenny367 has all the stats in The Stat Attack >>>.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Last time out
Saturday 25th October 2008 – Madejski Stadium
Coca Cola Championship
Rangers Team: Radek Cerny, Mikele Leigertwood, Damion Stewart, Fitz Hall, Matthew Connolly, Akos Buzsaky, Gavin Mahon, Martin Rowlands, Lee Cook, Samuel Di Carmine (Dexter Blackstock 60), Daniel Parejo (Angelo Balanta 86).
See also: Reading 1-2 QPR – 1997/98.
See also: QPR 2-1 Reading – 1966/67.
Referee– Mr J Moss
Assistants – Mr J G Comley & Mr J P Magill
Fourth official – Mr G J N Jerden
Mr Jonathan Moss from West Yorkshire will officiate the battle of the R`s tomorrow afternoon.
To get all the stats concerning the official Click Here >>>.
This is without a doubt the toughest test in W12 to date – Reading are at their best and firing on all cylinders making this a tough game to predict considering Rangers recent defensive record. Normally the odd goal has been enough to win the game, and more often than not it comes from Reading. However I think the R`s will score and pick up a home point; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Lenny367`s Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Ranger1975`s Prediction: 2-2 Draw
Southernhoop`s Prediction: 0-0 Draw
ACE`s Prediction: 2-0 Rangers
What a pessimistic bunch!
At the time of writing 80% of the poll voters think QPR will come away with all three points.
Who– Swansea City
Where– Loftus Road
When– Tuesday 3rd February 2009 – 8:00pm