Rangers have had a long wait since their 4-2 home humiliation at the hands of Burnley and Andrew Cole. Since then they`ve had a week to refresh in sunny Portugal, and will be looking to push on against Kevin Blackwell`s Sheffield United at Loftus Road.
De Canio spoke dejectedly after the Burnley defeat
‘Maybe, because of the type of football we played in the first half, we left ourselves open.
‘Burnley took full advantage of our mistakes.”
‘The general condition of the players was okay, but we had a few niggles in the camp and consequently we weren’t at our best in the second half.”
‘We struggled in the second period and gave the ball away far too easily. That is not a characteristic I like and we will work on it.”
He also spoke about the squad in general:
‘The squad has changed a lot and we are still trying to find our best possible team. As I’ve said before, these things can happen.”
‘We have a lot of good players here, but they need time and they need to get to grips with each other’s games.’
De Canio was quick also to praise veteran striker Andrew Cole:
‘Cole is a fantastic player and his record shows that, but I’ve brought in very good players of my own and we will see them progress in time.’
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Zesh Rehman looks set to drop to the bench in favour of a centre back partnership of Matthew Connolly and Damion Stewart, with Fitz Hall still sidelined with a groin injury and Chris Barker is still rated as doubtful coming through over an hour of the reserve fixture midweek.
Rowan Vine and Patrick Agyemang are set to be Rangers` strike force once more. Dexter Blackstock will be pushing for a starting place over Hogan Ephraim, which would push Rowan Vine wide.
Martin Rowlands looks set to return to the starting line-up after being withdrawn for precautionary measures against Burnley, which was ironically the turning point of the game.
Player to watch: Patrick Agyemang
This man has been unmoveable as the man to watch in recent games due to excellent performances capped off with an abundance of goals. The Ghanaian has been on fire since signing for the R`s and continued his tremendous scoring run against Burnley, making it 8 goals in 6 games. He still very much the man to watch for Blades defenders.
Bramall Lane was the place that Pat started his goal glut, and he has never looked back since.
Sheffield United Team News:
The Blades have no fresh injury concerns going into the game at Loftus Road, but may be looking to reshuffle ahead of a crucial FA Cup Replay against Middlesborough.
James Beattie looks set to continue upfront with Billy Sharp as they look to re-establish a rapport following Beattie`s prolonged absence due to injury.
David Carney could also be set to come back in, in place of John Stead, who doesn`t quite look himself in a wide position. Lee Martin could be set to keep his place in the starting line-up as United look to exploit Rangers recent defensive shortcomings.
Michael Tonge is also set to start against the R`s after an excellent display against Premier League opposition.
Player to watch: James Beattie
The Blades striker has struggled with injury in his first season of Championship football. In a career spanning 12 years, James has commanded a total £11m in transfer fee`s. He has made 309 league appearances in total, scoring 94 goals.
Beattie started as an apprentice at Blackburn but never really got his chance to shine, and in a fruitless 3 year spell, making 8 appearances scoring 1 goal, he made a surprising £1m move to the South coast and Southampton.
Beattie took a while to get going in his first season at Southampton, not scoring his first league goal until November, in a 3-3 draw with Middlesborough, he only went on to score 3 more goals that season.
He failed to score in the season 1999/2000, with Southampton fans wondering what on earth they had purchased. Then the striker exploded into life with a brace at home to Chelsea in November 2000, which led to a scoring run of 9 goals in 10 games. The following season Beattie bagged 14 goals in a good campaign for the saints finishing midtable.
After some impressive displays, notably a hatrick against Fulham at St. Mary`s, Beattie got his England call-up in the shameful defeat at Home to Australia. In 2004 he had a well-documented fall out with then manager Paul Sturrock, which led to the very premature departure of the Scotsman. It didn`t seem to matter as months later Beattie moved to pastures new and Everton for a reported £6m.
He flattered to deceive in the best part of 3 years at Goodison Park, scoring 13 league goals from 76 appearances, making him a very expensive mistake by David Moyes.
He eventually moved on and seems to have discovered his goalscoring touch in the Championship already bagging the same amount of league goals in 27 appearances. A formidable force in the air and on the ground, the Rangers rearguard will have its work cut out to avoid a Beatting
Match Facts & Stats
With Rangers losing at Home midweek, they lost a home unbeaten record stretching into early December. The clarets defeat was only Rangers 2nd home loss in 9 games, an impressive recent home record that has pulled Rangers momentarily away from the drop zone.
In the last 5 matches Rangers have won 3 and lost 2, appearing to be somewhat of an inconsistency of late. With the highs against Bristol City and Barnsley, and lows in a poor second half against Burnley and a shameful display away at Cardiff.
Sheffield United are still waiting for their first away in the league this year. The last time the Blades won on their travels in the Championship was December 1st, against Coventry. However they did defeat Bolton in the FA Cup at the Reebok Stadium.
In their last 5 league games United have drawn 4 and lost 1. And that defeat was painful, losing to rivals Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Their recent FA Cup run has help disguise some poor league form for the Blades and they will no doubt look to get back to winning ways against the team they last defeated in the Championship, QPR.
Historically Rangers have had the better of the Blades in League competition, with 14 wins to United`s 11, and 14 draws. United got the better of the R`s at Loftus Road most recently in 2004 and 2001.
Last time out
13th August 2005- Loftus Road
QPR 2 (Bircham 56, Moore 90)
Sheffield United 1 (Kabba 90)
Rangers Team: Royce, Bignot, Shittu, Santos, Rose, Ainsworth (Brown 69) Bircham, Doherty (Moore 39) Rowlands (Bean 87) Gallen, Furlong.
Last time out
12th January 2008- Turf Moor
Sheffield United 2 (Stewart 64og, Hendrie 69)
QPR 1 (Agyemang 45)
Rangers Team: Camp, Barker (Blackstock 73) Connolly, Hall, Stewart, Mahon, Buzsaky, Rowlands, Lee, Agyemang, Vine.
Referee– S. Bennett
Assistants – I Gosling & T Massey
Fourth official – K Knight
Mr Bennett has not refereed the R`s in a while. He first refereed the R`s in a 1-0 defeat away at Charlton in the league cup way back in 1998. Since then he has seen Rangers lose at home to Crewe 1-0, pick up a narrow win at Port Vale at home 3-2, also with draws at home to Crystal Palace and away at Wolves. He also saw over Rangers meteoric rise in the 02/03 season, overseeing Rangers 2-1 win over Wycombe, and refereeing the away leg of the playoff semi final against Oldham.
In 35 games this season he has handed out a staggering 102 yellow cards and 8 reds. Most recently sending off Spurs` Didier Zokora in their 2-0 win over Manchester City in the League Cup semi final.
It`ll be tough to bounceback after a lacklustre second half display against Burnley, but I tip Rangers to rediscover their form in this home encounter, so that`s why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-1 QPR
For all the latest match odds click on www.williamhill.com
Who– Barnsley V QPR
When– Tuesday 26th February 2008: 7:45pm