Following a draw with Sheffield United at Loftus Road, Rangers are back on the road, against F.A. Cup giant killing opposition Barnsley, a team they beat only a month ago on home soil. With both teams on the same points with Rangers edging the goal difference, it looks to be a tight affair at Oakwell.
Gigi De Canio spoke after the Blades match:
‘I’m very disappointed with the outcome,’
‘One goal is never enough in this division and it is never over until the final whistle.”
‘We made one mistake and it proved to be a crucial one.”
De Canio continued:
‘We managed the game very well against a side that restricted us from doing what we wanted, but we should have won the game because we took the lead and looked comfortable.”
‘They pushed it with their style of play, but we should have finished them off in the first half.
‘The two teams were very equal overall.’
The Italian also had kind words for Angelo Balanta on his first senior goal:
‘I am pleased for Angelo, he took his goal very well,’
‘He still has a lot to do. He needs to grow, but he has a great talent.’
Barnsley Team News:
Barnsley look set to keep faith with Luke Steele following his cup heroics at Anfield, over Tony Warner who failed to make the bench against Norwich at the weekend.
Daniel Nardiello will be unavailable for selection, due to the stipulation in his loan arrangement with the R`s. This could hand a place to John Macken who impressed off the bench for the Tykes in the final moments of the game at the weekend. Alternatively the Reds may opt for tricky winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who will certainly need watching, as his F.A Cup goal against Southend will show. Lewin Nyatanga will also be looking to claim a place in the starting line-up.
Barnsley are still without long-term absentee Dwayne Mattis.
Player to watch: Diego Leon
The tricky central midfielder has proven himself a real asset since signing for the Tykes in the January transfer window. Simon Davey`s connections abroad once again doing the business as Leon appears to be a real find for the Reds.
Diego Leon starting his career as a promising prospect of the Real Madrid youth academy. In his time at the Santiago Bernabau he didn`t make any appearances, but was handed a squad number in the 2005/06 season amongst a plethora of household names and stars.
In 2005, Leon joined German outfit Armenia Bielefeld on loan until the end of the season, where he scored 1 goal in 14 appearances. His performances in German football impressed Grasshoppers of Zurich who snapped the player up to play in the 2006/07 season. In his time in Switzerland he scored 3 goals in 30 appearances, a worthy tally for a player that wasn`t witnessing a lot of first team football.
It was announced that Leon would sign for Barnsley in December 2007, and the deal went through at the start of the transfer window and the Palencia born midfielder was a Tyke. He made his debut off the bench against Norwich in a rare home defeat for Barnsley, and started his first game the following week, putting in a good display in a 2-0 loss against QPR at Loftus Road, another defeat to add to Barnsley`s cataclysmic away record.
A player that will definitely need to be watched as he continues to pull the strings from midfield, and his trickery and flair will need to be dealt with if the R`s are to come away from Yorkshire with the points.
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Gigi De Canio may reshuffle the pack in the away fixture up in South Yorkshire, after making several changes at the weekend.
The R`s are able to welcome back Akos Buzsaky and Gavin Mahon from one-match suspension and injury respectively. Angelo Balanta and Mikele Leigertwood may be the ones to miss out as this duo re-enter the fray.
Matthew Connolly was taken off as a precautionary measure but may be replaced by Damion Stewart. Alternatively 90 minutes may have been too much for the recovering Fitz Hall at the weekend and he may also be replaced.
Rowan Vine and Patrick Agyemang look set to continue their blossoming partnership uprfront, however Dexter Blackstock will be looking on from the periphery to play himself into contention.
Player to watch: Martin Rowlands
We really cannot just keep giving the accolade to Patrick Agyemang. Whilst Agyemang`s goals have been at the forefront of the Rangers revolution, what is less obvious is the engine room of the operation.
Martin Rowlands has been in excellent form of late which is shown quite overtly following his departure through injury against Burnley when Rangers were 2-0 to the good.
He has really come on leaps and bounds since the arrival of Luigi De Canio, and has made a central midfield role his own of late, with some good tackling and distribution, capped off with what would have been goal of the season at home to Barnsley, weaving his way past what seemed the whole team before having his shot cleared off the line.
The midfielder has 4 league goals to his name this season, with 3 assists, from 31 league starts, this is the man that will hope to counter the threat of Diego Leon in the middle, and give the Tykes something to worry about going forward.
Match Facts & Stats
Saturday was Rangers first draw in 12 games, suggesting that on the day, things tend to go one way or the other, depending on what Rangers decide to show up. February itself has been a high scoring month watching the R`s, with Rangers scoring 9 goals and conceding 7 in 4 games, lets hope for similar excitement at Oakwell.
In their last 6 away games Rangers have won 3 and lost 3, again reaffirming their indifference on the road.
With their magnificent F.A. Cup victory aside Barnsley have also been in indifferent form of late. In their last 6 games the Tykes have lost 4 and won 2. One of the defeats came at Loftus Road, whilst there was a valuable Home win over West Bromwich Albion. Barnsley have conceded 9 goals in this month alone, and will need their defence to hold out on home soil.
Barnsley`s home form makes from impressive reading as they have only lost twice at fortress Oakwell this season, on the opening day to Coventry City, and more recently against Norwich.
Historically it is Rangers who have a better head to head record, winning 18 games to the Tykes 12, with the teams drawing 9 times. But Rangers haven`t won at Barnsley for over a decade when Barker, Perry and Dichio were the heroes as Rangers ran out 3-1 winners over the aforementioned opponents.
Last Time We Met
30th January 2007: Oakwell
Barnsley 2 (Richards 45, Howard 90)
Rangers Team: Royce, Mancienne, Rehman (Nygaard 85) Timoska, Stewart, Bolder, Lomas (Ainsworth 74) Smith, Cook, Furlong (Jones 71) Blackstock.
19th January 2008: Loftus Road
QPR 2 (Agyemang 5, Vine 45)
Rangers Team: Camp, Delaney, Connolly, Stewart (Lee 84) Hall (Mancienne 79) Buzsaky, Rowlands, Leigertwood, Agyemang, Vine, Blackstock (Ephraim 89)
Referee E L Ilderton
Assistant Referees N Murphy & A M Newbold
Fourth Official I Knight
Mr. Ilderton has only refereed the R`s once in a 1-1 draw away at Wigan Athletic in the old Division 2, booking Clark Carlisle and Richard Langley. This season Mr. Ilderton has officiated 23 games handing out 52 yellow and 3 reds, sending off Kevin Kyle for Coventry in January.
I envisage this being an open game at Oakwell, with both defences really suffering of late, but with Rangers attacking line looking stronger I am going against the form book to say:
Boxer`s Prediction: 3-1 Rangers
For all the latest match odds click on www.williamhill.com
Who: Stoke City
Where: Loftus Road
WhenSunday 2nd March 2008: 1:15pm