Rangers will no doubt be buoyant after a tremendous away performance at Southampton, but its back to business and back to home soil, as Rangers welcome Burnley to Loftus Road, a team that if Rangers have loftier aspirations, must look to defeat.
A returning Luigi De Canio spoke after the Saints game:
‘We’re no longer the ugly sisters of the Championship’
‘We were bottom when we arrived and now we’re in a far healthier position in the standings.’
‘The early goal was a setback, but the response from the players was first class. We regained the right mentality which is excellent.”
‘We’ll continue to take each games as it comes, but we’re heading in the right direction and that is very pleasing.”
‘The hunger within this group of players is exceptional and that fills me with great belief.’
Gigi also spoke about in form striker Patrick Agyemang:
‘He probably wishes he’d have met me earlier on in his career!’.
‘He should thank me! In all seriousness though, he’s been great, as have all the new signings.’
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Damion Stewart and Akos Buzsaky could be in line to return to the starting line up following their omission due to the duo being on international duty. Stewart looks set to come in for Zesh Rehman, whilst Buzsaky is set to replace Kieran Lee.
Agyemang and Vine look set also to be the preferred strike partnership once again, with a place on the bench for Dexter Blackstock.
Player to watch: Patrick Agyemang
Agyemang`s brace against Southampton made it four goals in two games and furthermore 7 goals in 5 games for the new signing who has been an absolute revelation since his move from Preston, whose fans must be scratching their head and wondering; how it could be the same player who scored only 21 goals in 131 games in a career spanning over 3 years at Deepdale.
Since the transfer which was viewed as somewhat perplexing by some Rangers fans considering the tools at their disposal, the striker has been unstoppable and Burnley will find him a different proposition altogether than the team Rangers brought to Lancashire only a couple of months previous.
Burnley Team News:
Burnley hot off the heels of a disappointing home draw against Colchester United will be looking to take at least a point off Rangers in this encounter at Loftus Road, and they will seemingly turn to the strike trio of Kyle Lafferty, Robbie Blake and Andrew Cole.
Cole scored his first goal in claret at the weekend and will be looking to continue a run of goalscoring form in West London. However Ade Akinbiyi is also in the frame to start after coming off the bench in the weekends encounter.
Chris McCann looks unlikely to make the encounter having picked up an injury previous to the game against Colchester, and Arsenal loanee Mark Randall could be pushing for a starting place after impressing off the bench.
Player to watch: Andrew Cole
The much-travelled striker is back to the Championship in a career, which has seen some lofty heights and impressive performances.
Burnley is Cole`s 12th club, albeit only on loan, in 624 performances in all competitions, Cole has scored 284 goals, 224 of those coming in the league in a career spanning over 18 years.
Cole started his career at Arsenal as a trainee, he never really got his chance in the first team, instead going out on loan to Fulham. Performances there earnt the striker a £500,000 move to Bristol City, where the striker had a prolific year scoring 20 goals in 41 league appearances. These performances opened up a memorable chapter in his life with a £1.75m move to north-east giants, Newcastle United.
In almost two years at Newcastle, he certainly repaid the transfer fee scoring a staggering 55 league goals in 70 league appearances. Manager Kevin Keegan was facing a stern test to keep hold of the much-sought striker, and eventually succumbed to selling him to Manchester United for £6m, and finding a ready replacement in Alan Shearer.
Manchester United came calling and in a successful spell at the Premier League champions he was part of the treble winning side of 1999, scoring 93 league goals in 195 appearances, incredible scoring record at the top level for Cole. He scored against the R`s at Old Trafford in 1995, in a 2-1 win for the Red Devils, Ryan Giggs got the second, and Danny Dichio scored a consolation for the R`s. The only other time he met Rangers in his career was later than season when he played in a 1-1 draw at Loftus Road, with Eric Cantona salvaging a point for United. He moved on to pastures new in 2001 with Blackburn Rovers who paid a reported £8m for his services.
He scored 27 goals in 83 appearances for Rovers in the space of three years, but it wasn`t deemed worthy of the transfer fee and he was released to play for Fulham in 2004, after one season scoring 12 goals, Manchester City recruited Cole`s services. He scored only 9 goals, these 9 goals did enough to impress Portsmouth who snapped up the striker for £500,000 where he was used as a bit part player, scored 3 goals in 18 appearances.
Cole then dropped to Championship level, first on loan with Birmingham City, then with newly promoted Sunderland, but has once again failed to hold down a first team place with the Black Cats, as an illustrious career including 15 England caps begins to wind down.
One thing you don`t lose is a keen eye for goal, and Cole has scored goals wherever the transfer market has taken him, he is a deadly assassin infront of goal and a tricky player to play against with some good touches. Rangers will have to stop this man amongst others if they are to keep a clean sheet at home.
Match Facts & Stats
Rangers are now 5 undefeated at home, with 4 wins in a row as they are looking to make Loftus Road a formidable fortress in the months to come. In fact in the last 12 home games Rangers have only lost twice, and have scored 5 goals in total without reply in the last two home games.
Patrick Agyemang has hit 7 league goals in 5 league games, a tremendous goalscoring record he will be looking to keep up at home against the Clarets. He has scored in both his home appearances, hitting one against Barnsley and a brace against Bristol City.
Burnley have been in indifferent form of late, on the road in the last 5 away games they have mustered 2 wins and 2 losses, drawing once. A New Years Day defeat away at Blackpool 3-0 will be a definitive low point in Owen Coyle`s reign. The Clarets won 3 in a row before losing and drawing against West Brom and Colchester respectively.
Burnley now rely on Robbie Blake to score the goals, aswell as new boy Andrew Cole, following the departure of top scorer Andy Gray to Charlton, Blake has 8 goals in total for Burnley this campaign, and will no doubt be looking to notch again in W12.
Historically Burnley have the better head to head record, with 12 league wins to Rangers 10, the teams drawing only 3 times. Rangers fans can look back fondly to 1979 in the old division two, where Rangers crushed Burnley 7-0 at Loftus Road, Burnley`s young debutante goalkeeper having a day to forget. A result of similar ilk I`m sure would satisfy.
Last time out
3rd February 2007- Loftus Road
QPR 3 (Cook 15, Blackstock 55, Lomas 72)
Burnley 1 (McCann 18)
Rangers Team: Royce, Mancienne, Cullip, Stewart, Ainsworth, Lomas, Bolder Timoska, Rowlands Blackstock, Cook
Last time out
11th December 2007- Turf Moor
QPR 2 (Stewart 60, Vine 90)
Rangers Team: Camp, Rehman, Stewart, Malcolm, Barker, Ainsworth, Bolder, Leigertwood (Walton 88) Sinclair (Blackstock 75) Nygaard, Vine.
Referee– K.A Friend
Assistants – W Barratt & J.P. Magill
Fourth official – D Belbin
Mr. Friend refereed Rangers twice last season in the 2-2 Home draw with Leeds United, and the narrow 2-1 away defeat against Birmingham City He has also officiated Rangers 3-2 win against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, Rangers 0-0 draw away at Derby. Even back in our Division 2 days, Mr. Friend oversaw the 3-3 draw away at Notts County, and the game where we thought we blew it, the 1-1 draw at home to Stockport.
In 28 games this season Mr. Friend has handed out 71 yellows and 8 reds, most recently sending off both Jay Simpson and Neil Eardley in Oldham`s 3-2 defeat of Millwall at the New Den.
I hope to see some good attacking football on display, and I hope we can put the Burnley defence to the sword as we did Barnsley and Bristol City, so that`s why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-0 QPR
For all the latest match odds click on www.williamhill.com
Who– QPR V Sheffield United
Where– Loftus Road
When– Saturday 23rd February 2008: 3:00pm