Rangers will be looking to go from strength to strength after dispatching of promotion chasers Bristol City in style at the weekend, to do this they will have to get past managerless Southampton, and with Rangers away record proving extremely indifferent of late, this will be no easy task.
As Gigi De Canio was away Joe Dunbar spoke following the Bristol City game:
‘The way the players responded when that opening whistle went was fantastic. They got on with their jobs and did the Club proud.”
‘Performance-wise, we were quite pleased. We were strong from the off.”
‘The thing about this division is that anyone can beat anyone. We’ve shown that today.”
‘It was nice to see the lads start so positively after Tuesday’s poor performance. This match gave us a quick opportunity to set the record straight, and we didn’t waste it.”
‘I think we have turned a corner in recent weeks but, let’s be blunt, we are in a fortunate position as we have had significant investment.”
‘Cardiff was poor, but we can’t change what happened there. We’re over that now, and I’d much rather look forward because there’s an exciting future for this Football Club.’
Joe also spoke about manager Gigi De Canio`s absence:
‘It has been a difficult day, and when something like this happens it shows you that there is more to life than football.”
‘Luigi has returned to Italy, and our thoughts are with him and his family, first and foremost.”
‘The team was already picked, he told me who he wanted to start and how he wanted them to play.”
‘We don’t know how long he will be away for, it will be as long as he needs.’
Southampton Team News:
The Saints may be able to call upon Polish Striker Marek Saganowski, after he came through a reserve game midweek unscathed, as did Ollie Lancashire and Simon Gillet.
Darren Powell and Alexander Ostlund are also in a race against time to face the R`s on Saturday. The former is recovering from a bad cramp picked against Crystal Palace, and Ostlund is looking to return following a two-month absence with a hamstring problem.
However long term absentees Claus Lundekvam, Nathan Dyer and Gregory Vignal are not available for selection Saturday.
The match could also see the return of Rangers favourite Inigo Idiakez, who will get a great welcome if he is announced in the 16.
Player to watch: Stern John
The Trinidad and Tobago international is a man of experience at this level, and he and Rangers have met on a number of occasions before.
John started his career at American outfit Columbus Crew, and good performances earnt him a £1.5m move to Nottingham Forest.
Playing for Nottingham Forest against the R`s twice, Stern didn`t pick up a goal. Rangers defeated them 1-0 at Loftus Road in December 2000 courtesy of a goal from Peter Crouch. A 1-1 draw ensued at the City Ground, Harewood scoring for Forest, and Wardley for Rangers. He made 78 appearances scoring 20 goals.
Stern then moved to Birmingham in a deal worth £150,000, he made 81 appearances scoring 20 goals for the Blues over a two-year spell.
Coventry City then came calling in a £200,000 deal. He played in two fruitless games for the Sky Blues against QPR in the 04/05 season. Rangers dispatched of Coventry 4-1 at Loftus Road, which owed much to a Jamie Cureton hatrick. Rangers also picked up a victory at Highfield Road, with a last gasp Georges Santos effort.
Stern went on loan to Derby and Rangers once again got the better of him, when they picked up an unlikely victory at Pride Park courtesy of Paul Furlong and Kevin Gallen goals.
John signed for Sunderland on a free transfer and finally got the better of the R`s in a 2-1 victory at the back end of Rangers revival last season. Again though he remained goaless against the R`s.
Stern made his debut against the R`s earlier on this season in the game commemorating the life of Ray Jones and helped the Saints to a 3-0 win at Loftus Road.
A good international career has seen him capped for his country 96 times, scoring 65 goals; an impressive record.
Always lively and a threat when on form, the striker will need to be watched, his goal against Crystal Palace handed a good away point for the Saints, and he will be looking to get back into the goalscoring groove at Home.
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
The release of Sami Timoska and Adam Bolder being loaned out to Championship rivals Sheffield Wednesday, and the arrival of American goalkeeper Matt Pickens from Chicago Fire has made for another interesting week in W12.
Rangers are still unable to call upon defender Fitz Hall after his groin tear at Cardiff last week. Matthew Connolly could be in line for a recall over Zesh Rehman, who performed admirably in place of young centre half.
Rowan Vine could be set to partner in form striker Patrick Agyemang once again after impressing against Bristol City on Saturday.
No further changes are expected for Rangers, pending a formation reshuffle, which could see Mikele Leigetwood return to midfield at the expense of Hogan Ephraim.
Player to watch: Patrick Agyemang
Agyemang once again proved his worth with two goals, brilliant in their simplicity, first rolling past Adriano Basso and into the corner when through on goal, and secondly tapping home after an Akos Buzsaky deflected effort.
5 goals in 4 games for Agyemang, goalscoring form that would have been worthy of a call-up from his country, Ghana. It came a little late for the African Cup of Nations but worked out perfectly for Rangers.
Pat is a man inspired at the moment and the Saints backline will have its work cut out to stop the unstoppable forward.
Match Facts & Stats
The Saints haven`t won in three games in the Championship, and remain managerless following the departure of George Burley to the Scotland job. This was compounded by the disappointing defeat at home to previously relegation-threatened Norwich City, with Stern John missing a penalty.
Indifferent form such as this has cost Southampton a place in the higher echelons of the division, and they will be looking to start a good run this weekend at Home to Rangers.
QPR have yet to win an away game in 2008, only the home form is maintaining Rangers position above the drop zone. With scintillating performances at home, Rangers are unable to transfer this sort of form into an away game, which has seen them flatter to deceive in games against Cardiff (Lost 3-1) and Sheffield United (Lost 2-1). This has only yielded them 2 wins from 8 away games, that`s 7 points from a possible 24. They will be looking to carry unstoppable home form into the encounter at St. Mary`s
Historically, Southampton edge the head to head, with 24 league wins to Rangers 21, with the teams drawing 18 times. Rangers also picked up a fantastic victory against the Saints at St. Mary`s last season. A goal from Ray Jones was poignant considering the two teams met on a more solemn note just under a year later.
Rangers fans will no doubt remember a tremendous victory at the Dell, when they dispatched of Southampton 4-1 in December 1988 in the old division 1.
Last time out
30th September 2006- St. Mary`s
Southampton 1 (Wright 3)
QPR 2 (Blackstock 34, Jones 40)
Rangers Team: Paul Jones, Rehman, Bignot, Stewart, Rose (Kanyuka 22) Rowlands, Bircham (Lomas 62), Bailey (Smith 62), Cook, Ray Jones, Blackstock
Last time out
1st September 2007- Loftus Road
Southampton 3 (Rasiak 18, 45 Wright-Phillips 49)
Rangers Team: Camp, Curtis, Ste
Referee– A Taylor
Assistants – S Creighton & J Farries
Fourth official – W Bull
Mr. Taylor has yet to referee the R`s in his career; he has had only 2 years in the football league refereeing only 8 Championship encounters before this.
In 24 games this season Mr. Taylor has handed out 75 yellow cards and 6 reds, recently sending off Nottingham Forest defender Kelvin Wilson.
I predict a close game, definitely an improvement on recent away performances. I will be optimistic and say:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-1 QPR
For all the latest match odds click on www.williamhill.com
Who– QPR V Burnley
Where– Loftus Road
When– Tuesday 12th February 2008: 8:00pm