RANGERS travel across the Seven Bridge for the second time this season as they face a resurgent Cardiff City side who while not playing have watched others around them falter.
Dave Jones` men have 2-4 games in hand on the teams around them who have failed to perform while the Bluebirds Championship fixtures had fallen by the wayside.
While threatening to make an assault on the Championship in recent years Cardiff have always seemed to fall away without so much of a whimper as FA Cup distractions got the better of their promotion push last time out.
This season however the Bluebirds have flourished with new signing Ross McCormack at the forefront of their promotion push. He was joined in the summer by fellow forward Jay Bothroyd and between them the goals have flowed and their promotion credentials increased dramatically.
Cardiff remain unbeaten in 12 games in the Championship and undefeated in eight games at Ninian Park in all competitions, making them not only emerge as a real promotion contender but also, for the second year running, a surprise package in the FA Cup – holding Premier League Arsenal to a draw.
Chris Burke, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Michael Chopra bolstered a squad intent on achieving what is believed a long-overdue promotion to the Premier League. Missing out on the signature of Wayne Routledge was a minor blow as Cardiff`s now sole intent is to reach the promise land of the Premier League – a project which has been nine years in the making.
Rangers boss Paulo Sousa told QPR.co.uk that while individual errors cost Rangers for the second game in succession his side must accept collective responsibility for their failure against Ipswich.
He said: ‘I’ve always said that we win together and lose together and each and every player takes responsibility when we win and when we lose. Today is no different to that.
‘I understand the fans’ frustrations, but as a Manager, when you lose, you all lose. Some players didn’t play to their best ability tonight, but the way to help is to support.
‘It’s a normal reaction, because they (the fans) want to see us win every match. Their frustration is our frustration.’
Sousa also expressed his frustration at the R`s inability to retain possession after opening the scoring and the subsequent away goals that followed.
He said: ‘Of course I am disappointed. We created the first goal, but then we allowed them opportunities to score and we conceded a lot of possession.
‘We made a lot of mistakes in the first and second moments and they took advantage.’
Sousa continued: ‘Other than the result, I feel that the positives today were that the fans, who were very close to us. Since I arrived in this country, that has been the best our fans have been and I’m grateful because we needed that.
‘From the beginning they are important to us. We started well, but then we came under a lot of pressure and began to make mistakes and conceded through their counter-attacks. Those mistakes put pressure on ourselves.
‘At the start of the second half we changed that and I felt that we reacted very well and were coming back into it. We created chances – far more than them – but the goals didn’t come.’
Cardiff City manager David Jones spoke to cardiffcityfc.co.uk of similar individual errors costing his side two points against leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers but asked media and fans alike to lay off loanee Dimi Konstantopoulos.
He said: ‘It happens in football and there’s nothing you can do,
‘He’ll probably get pelters from our local press and everything else, but what I’m saying is lay off – he’s made a mistake, but there were plenty of mistakes out there from two sets of players of both teams and the three officials. But unfortunately it didn’t cost points.
‘Everyone will take away their first goal, but it was a mistake as we didn’t pick up the player, but everyone will have a go at Dimi because he’s the last man. It took a wicked deflection off Kevin’s arm and it just moved in the air.’
Jones thought that his side took too long to get going against his former club and indicated that their break from Championship football may have been responsible.
He said: ‘I thought that in the first half it took us until we scored to get going. Maybe it was about getting used to the tempo of the league again after three weeks without a Championship game, but then in the second half we were outstanding.
“It was a little unfortunate that they got the equaliser, but we move on. It’s the third time that we’ve played a team in the top three and we’ve come away with points – and people think we’d be happy with that, but on the second half performance we could have taken maximum points.’
Injured forward Jay Bothroyd told Wales Online of the importance of a win.
He said: “‘We have played decent all season and we are still gunning for the automatic spots.
‘If we can beat QPR on Wednesday night then everybody will be in good spirits again.’
While skipper Joe Ledley told the same news outlet that Cardiff need to regain their focus against Rangers.
He said: ‘We`ve now got to get our rest in and get focused for Wednesday. That`s a massive game, but then they all are now.
“The heat is on, we all know that, but I`d rather be at this end of the table fighting for promotion than be at the other end fighting for your lives in the Championship.”
Cardiff City Team News:
Who R Ya?.
Dimi Konstantopolous will remain in goal despite his blunder against the league leaders Wolves as Tom Heaton remains sidelined with an injury picked up against Arsenal and summer signing Peter Enckelman also has a knock.
Former QPR trialist Gabor Gyepes looks set to retain his place in the Cardiff rearguard alongside former Wycombe Wanderers man Roger Johnson with Ricardo Scimeca waiting in the wings. Miguel Comminges and Kevin McNaughton will battle it out for a spot at right back and former QPR loanee Mark Kennedy is set to continue in an unfamiliar left-full back berth.
In midfield Cardiff can call upon great strength in depth on the flanks with Peter Whittingham, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Chris Burke looking to force their way into the line-up and displace Paul Parry and Ross McCormack from their wide positions.
It may be that McCormack is given a striker`s berth after being moved out wide for the Wolves fixture with Jay Bothroyd doubtful after limping off against the league leaders. Whoever starts upfront will link up with impressive loanee Michael Chopra as the Bluebirds look to get back to winning ways in the Championship.
Player to watch: Ross McCormack
Vital QPR has singled out forward Ross McCormack as the One to Watch ahead of the midweek clash with Cardiff City.
To view all the stats on the one to watch Click Here >>>.
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Lee Camp is expected to start between the sticks once more as Radek Cerny continues to step up his recovery from a hamstring injury. He will eye the Barnsley fixture at the weekend as a more realistic goal.
After the surprise inclusion of Fitz Hall this weekend, Rangers are destined to reintroduce Damion Stewart to the rearguard with a view to reinstalling that surety that has served them so well in the past and appeared in tatters at the weekend.
Despite receiving a horrendous reception from sections of the QPR ‘support’ at the weekend Gavin Mahon should continue in his holding role unless Paulo Sousa decides to chop and change owing to the brutal fixture congestion.
Jordi López continued to battle for fitness and may well get a place in the squad, but judging by his and Hogan Ephraim`s omission at the weekend, competition for places is fierce. Ephraim or Alberti may well come in for Lee Cook who grew weary at the end of the Ipswich defeat.
There are a plethora of options in the forward line however but despite the numbers there is nothing in substance. Dexter Blackstock, Heidar Helguson, Samuel Di Carmine and Angelo Balanta provide a decent crop to select from, but with goals at a minimum he may well only select one of the four to start.
Long-term absentees Rowan Vine, Akos Buzsaky and Martin Rowlands will once again be missing from the sixteen with Patrick Agyemang still not in contention following his thigh injury.
Player to watch: Wayne Routledge
Former Bluebird Wayne Routledge can expect a hot reception at Ninian Park for opting against joining them in favour of a move to West London. Born in Sidcup Routledge would be forgiven by many for opting for a return to the English capital, but Cardiff fans will certainly not see the situation that way.
Routledge has been instrumental in the R`s recent upsurge in away form, inspiring much of Rangers creativity both home and away. He has created four assists since joining in January most recently for Samuel Di Carmine against Ipswich Town – he has also bagged a goal against Derby County in his second game.
He bagged two goals in nine appearances for the Bluebirds in his brief loan spell from Aston Villa which rekindled the R`s interest in the former Tottenham Hotspur man as he made the move on the third day of the January transfer window.
Cardiff fans will know only too well the creativity and flair that this player possesses and they will ignore him at their peril should they look to keep a clean sheet in the Welsh capital.
To view Routledge`s profile Click Here >>>
Match Facts & Stats
Cardiff City: Last 5 Games: W D W W D
QPR: Last 5 Games: W W D D L
Cardiff have kicked on in the race for the playoffs and with their current games in hand appear an outside contender for automatic promotion on their current form. Cardiff have lost only one game in 15 in all competitions, beaten at home only twice this season by Wolves and Birmingham City.
A bitterly disappointing home defeat against Ipswich meant no win at Loftus Road in the last five attempts in all competitions and indeed in 2009. Paulo Sousa`s men haven`t picked up a win in their last three games, but are also undefeated in the league on the road since early December in a complete turn-around of their normal form guide.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Cardiff City: 24
Last Time Out.
Saturday 8th November 2008 – Loftus Road
Coca Cola Championship
QPR 1 (Gavin Mahon 80)
Cardiff City 0
Rangers Team: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney, Damion Stewart, Fitz Hall, Dexter Blackstock, Peter Ramage, Martin Rowlands, Matthew Connolly, Lee Cook, Damiano Tommasi (Gavin Mahon 67), Emmanuel Ledesma (Akos Buzsaky 55), Samuel Di Carmine (Patrick Agyemang 71).
See also: QPR 3-0 Cardiff City – 1979-80.
See also: Cardiff City 1-2 QPR – 1981-82.
Referee– Mr R East
Assistants – Mr P J Grove & Mr M Philpott
Fourth official – L Swabey
Mr Roger East from Wiltshire will officiate the R`s midweek clash with Cardiff City at Ninian Park.
To get all the stats on the official Click Here >>>.
This is arguably the toughest test of the season to date as Rangers travel to a real fortress and play against a top team. Cardiff City are one of my favourites to come through with a late surge for automatic promotion as Wolves and Birmingham continue to blow it.
They and Swansea appear they are only sides that want to gain promotion to the Premier League and the styles of football emanating from the Welsh outfits is a joy to behold for the country`s football. Cardiff had the better of the game at Loftus Road and were somehow defeated but this time round things will be different; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 1-1 Draw
When– Saturday 28th February 2009 – 3:00pm