RANGERS travel to the south coast this weekend as they face a Southampton side fighting for their lives at the foot of the Championship.
A stylish attacking side who have placed faith in their youth, you would be forgiven for rubbing your eyes in disbelief as Southampton find themselves in a relegation scrap.
Young talent like Andrew Surman, David McGoldrick and Adam Lallana have worked their way into the first team set-up and become integral players as Southampton adjust to life as Championship strugglers.
The cash strapped Saints have paid the price for dropping out of the Premier League with top-flight wages and failing to either bounce back or adapt to their new surroundings.
Maligned duo Michael Wilde and Rupert Lowe remain in place at the club despite fierce protestations from the supporters surrounding all manner of issues concerning the running of their club.
In Rangers they face a side in similar disarray for very different reasons, embarking on a poor run of results with sections of support critical with the ambition and direction of owner Flavio Briatore.
A side with a particularly good record at St Mary`s, the R`s will be looking to continue their positive run down on the south coast to dispel some recent abject performances and results.
View From The Bench
Rangers boss Paulo Sousa told the BBC that individual mistakes cost the R`s against Doncaster.
He said: ‘It’s not a nice moment for us. It’s a difficult moment because each mistake we make we are being penalised for.
‘Until the moment they scored the first goal we controlled the game. And then you get a little bit down, you concede the second goal also with another mistake and then it’s difficult.
‘If you want to achieve the project of the board – the Premier League – you need players who have a lot of personality. It’s a good moment to analyse that.’
Southampton boss Mark Wotte was keen to tell saintsfc.co.uk that he was not out for revenge against QPR for the drubbing handed out at Loftus Road.
He said: ‘Six months ago when we played them we played a very unlucky match. We got a red card and they scored an early goal, which is never good.
‘We came back to 1-1 through good football but then they scored more goals at the end.
‘No one here is thinking about that match any more. It’s two different teams, two different managers and two different situations.
‘They are reasonably secure and are not thinking about relegation problems. I know they have other aims and want to get promoted and get into the play-offs, but that gives them a different sort of pressure.
‘It’s just eleven versus eleven on Saturday. Eleven players who are very committed and want to go out there and win every game. We are working our socks off and everyone is doing everything they can to keep Southampton up.’
Saints midfielder Rudi Skácel believed it was important for his side to maintain a good run of form against Rangers.
He said: ‘We will need to play well in order to get something on Saturday but it would be great to get another result in front of our own fans.
‘Every game is important to us at the moment regardless of whether it is at home or not and we must prepare for each one accordingly.
‘It is important that we continue to look at things game by game for now, but we know what we have to do and another three or four match run would help us, starting against Q.P.R.’
Southampton Team News:
Southampton have no fresh injury concerns as they face QPR tomorrow afternoon, but have an extensive list of long-term absentees who will not be available for selection.
Lee Holmes has recently stepped up his rehabilitation from the injury he suffered at Loftus Road earlier this season, but will not be risked this weekend. Forward Jamie White has also started rehabilitation following a fractured fibula but is well off contention for a first team spot.
Experienced defenders Wayne Thomas and Michael Svensson are still looking to recover from their respective knee injuries while youngster Oscar Gobern has recently resumed training after an ankle injury in the reserves.
Calamity keeper Kelvin Davis will continue in goal for the Saints. An ordinarily useful keeper his legs seem to turn to jelly against QPR having cost Ipswich and Southampton twice against Rangers Bartosz Białkowski and Tommy Forecast will vie for the spot on the bench.
Rudi Skácel will once again slot in at left back with youngster Lloyd James on the opposite side. In the middle are Jan-Paul Saeijs and Chris Perry as Southampton look to keep a much needed clean sheet at St Mary`s.
Simon Gillett, Andrew Surman and Morgan Schneiderlin have made up the three-man midfield of late with the latter screening the back four allowing the two other youngsters to foray forward in search of goals. Paul Wotton and young prodigy Adam Lallana are also in contention with the latter coming from the bench against Derby County.
Sensing the Saints are in a dog-fight manager Mark Wotte has deployed a three-pronged attack in recent fixtures with Marek Saganowski being flanked by Jason Euell and David McGoldrick.
Team v Derby County: Kelvin Davis, Lloyd James, Jan-Paul Saeijs, Chris Perry, Rudi Skacel, Morgan Schneiderlin (Adam Lallana 46), Simon Gillett, David McGoldrick, Andrew Surman (Paul Wotton 69), Marek Saganowski, Jason Euell.
Player to watch: Marek Saganowski
Vital QPR has singled out striker Marek Saganowski as the One to Watch as the R`s travel to the Southampton tomorrow afternoon..
To view all the stats on the One To Watch Click Here >>>
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
QPR boss Paulo Sousa will once again tinker with the Rangers set-up after another disappointing display at the Keepmoat Stadium on Tuesday night.
Rangers spot between the sticks has been cemented by Radek Cerny. Some good recent performances from the Czech international has helped to freeze Lee Camp from the 16 as Sousa continues to try his luck without a keeper on the bench.
Damien Delaney will remain sidelined following a training ground injury meaning former Arsenal youth player Matthew Connolly will continue at left back, with Peter Ramage enjoying a rare start at right full back. Damion Stewart and Kaspars Gorkss look set to continue in the middle, but former Saint Fitz Hall is on the periphery after a shaky display from the Jamaican during the week.
Jordi López looks set to come back into the line-up after being rested against Rovers, should he be selected he will replace Gavin Mahon in a 4-4-2 formation. Should Sousa opt for five across the middle, Mikele Leigertwood will once again be partnered by Liam Miller who steps up his race for fitness.
Lee Cook was once again missing from the squad on Tuesday night as he recovers from a knee injury, with Matteo Alberti proving ineffective on the left flank. Romone Rose was the option from the bench but will not make his first start at St Mary`s with Hogan Ephraim pushing for a starting spot. Wayne Routledge remains unopposed on the opposite flank.
Sousa may well unleash forward Angelo Balanta on Southampton with Rangers visibly struggling for viable options on the forward line. Helguson, Blackstock and Di Carmine have all failed to hit the target consistently and Balanta could be the benefactor.
There were encouraging signs from Rowan Vine as he warmed up against Doncaster on Tuesday but he will not be risked this weekend. Akos Buzsaky and Martin Rowlands will once again be missing from the sixteen while Patrick Agyemang will be looking to regain his fitness before rejoining
Player to watch: Dexter Blackstock
In Dexter Blackstock Rangers have a player who relishes facing his former side scoring three goals in his five meetings against the Saints, including a brace in a 4-1 victory in W12 earlier this season.
Recently however the former Saints man has found the going tough at Loftus Road scoring only one of his 12 goals since the turn of the year.
Spurned opportunities have become magnified in recent fixtures with the forward looping a succession of poorly timed headers over the bar before ballooning a close range effort into the stands against Doncaster.
Dexter has a proud record of scoring crucial goals at the right time, and in order to save his place and Rangers slim playoff hopes, that time is this weekend. All the ingredients are there for Blackstock, but can he finally deliver the goods?
To view Blackstock`s profile Click Here >>>
Southampton: Last 5 Games: W W W L D
QPR: Last 5 Games: D L L D L
Southampton have picked up some much needed points in their race for survival in recent weeks with three wins coming in their last five games. Eight goals during this period has been coupled with only three conceded as Mark Wotte`s men look to steer themselves away from the drop zone.
Paulo Sousa`s side have found the going tough of late going eight games without a win, while the prowess of their forwards has also come under fire only bagging four goals in the Championship this calendar year.
Lenny367 has all the stats in The Stat-Attack >>>.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Last Time Out
Saturday 14th September 2008 – Loftus Road
Coca Cola Championship
QPR 4 (Blackstock 1, 77, Stewart 63, Agyemang 90)
Southampton 1 (Lallana 53)
Rangers Team: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney, Damion Stewart, Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Daniel Parejo (Martin Rowlands 60), Dexter Blackstock, Peter Ramage, Matthew Connolly, Lee Cook, Hogan Ephraim (Patrick Agyemang 59)
See also: QPR 4-0 Southampton – 24-03-84.
See also: Southampton 0-1 QPR – 29-08-87.
Referee– Mr M Jones
Assistants – Mr A Williams and Mr M Cairns
Fourth official – Mr G Hegley
Mr Mike Jones from Chester will officiate the R`s clash with Southampton tomorrow afternoon.
To get all the stats on the official Click Here >>>.
This will be another tough fixture as Rangers try to stem an horrendous run in recent weeks. Southampton under Mark Wotte have become revitalised in recent weeks sparking hope of a revival.
After weeks of heartbreak for Rangers fans they visit a ground with happy memories intent on dispelling previous indiscretions so far this year. This time QPR will come good and snatch that all important victory; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-1 Rangers
Ranger 1975`s Prediction: 1-0 Saints
Next Up In W12
Who– Swansea City
Where– Loftus Road
When– Tuesday 17th March 2009 – 8:00pm