Rangers travel north to Sheffield fresh off the back of a good performance at Stamford Bridge, and will be looking to take a good section of that travelling support up to the home of the Blades for a keenly contested match.
Gigi De Canio will have to pit his wits against a team that was last season a Premier League team only to be relegated on the last day by losing at Home to Wigan Athletic.
Gigi De Canio spoke of his pride following the F.A. Cup defeat at Stamford Bridge:
‘To play as we did against a team of champions is very satisfying. It is never nice to lose, but I am proud of my players,’
‘I thought we put in a good performance and right up until the end we did everything we could to try and snatch a result.
De Canio also talked about the opposition and the goal:
‘The goal was very unfortunate. In football, you have your lucky moments and your unlucky moments and unfortunately in that moment we were very, very unlucky.”
‘The fact that we matched Chelsea in many errors satisfied me, but we have to make sure we carry that level of performance on into the Championship.’
Finally Gigi spoke of his delight at the new addition and hinted at some more to come:
‘We have only had a few days with the new players, but it has all been very positive.”
‘I am sure we will be able to meet our objective with this group of players in the Championship.’
‘We are still looking to add to the squad. Hopefully we can do something soon.’
Sheffield United Team News:
Fresh of the back of what some would consider an upset at the Reebok Stadium, Sheffield United have goalscoring problems going into the game with Rangers
The Blades will be without key Striker James Beattie for the clash at Bramall Lane. The £4m striker has contributed 13 goals from 24 games, which sees him second behind Kevin Phillips as the second highest-scorer in the league. It is certainly good news for Rangers that he will be sat in the stand and not on the pitch.
Sheffield United can call upon Luton Shelton, Rob Hulse and Jon Stead as able deputies. Danny Webber, who also loves to score goals against Rangers with goals against the R`s for both Watford and Sheffield United, could be in line for a return from injury. Billy Sharp could also make the starting line-up. An abundance of strikers, but the man who puts the ball away will be in tracksuit in the stand.
The Blades will not be able to call on newly signed winger Lee Martin on loan from Manchester United due to suspension, the winger previously with Ian Holloway at Plymouth Argyle. In that loan period he made 10 starts scoring two goals for the Pilgrims.
However Phil Bardsley, Gary Speed and Michael Tonge will all be available for selection. Defender Gary Naysmith may also return from a shoulder injury.
Player to watch: Jon Stead
The ex-Sunderland, Blackburn and Huddersfield front man has had mixed fortunes with clubs. Starting his career as a trainee at Huddersfield he looked an impressive prospect bagging 24 goals in 60 appearances in all competitions. After an impressive season, he earnt a £1.25m move to Premier League Blackburn Rovers.
After some mixed performances the striker bagged 8 goals in his first top-flight season. He then earnt himself a move to newly promoted Sunderland under the guidance of Mick McCarthy.
Undoubtedly the worst spell of his career, the striker only netted twice for the Black Cats. His first and only goal of the 05/06 season came on the 1st April in a 2-2 draw away at Everton, a large reason why Sunderland didn`t stay in the Premier League that year.
The Striker was loaned out to Derby the following season where he recaptured some of his goalscoring form, with a notably impressive performance at Loftus Road. This attracted the attention of then Premier League side Sheffield United, who paid Sunderland £750k for his services. He has up until now scored 9 goals in all competitions for the Blades.
Stead will have to prove himself a worthy deputy to Beattie, he has scored 2 league goals this season, but will need to improve on that tally to be the man to partner Beattie in a squad bursting to the seams with Strikers, a trademark that Neil Warnock has left on the club following his departure.
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Michael Mancienne came through an hour of the reserves 0-0 away draw against Crystal Palace, and will no doubt be pushing for a place in the 16.
Former blade Mikele Leigertwood serves the final game of his four-match ban, following his sending off away at Plymouth on Boxing Day.
Rangers can call upon new £1m signing Rowan Vine for the Bramall Lane clash. The striker come winger impressed in a loan spell with the R`s and earnt himself a permanent deal late on Tuesday.
There could also be league debuts for Kieran Lee, Patrick Agyemang, Fitz Hall and Matthew Connolly. It is a race against time to announce the signature of Argentine left winger Sebastian Rusculleda.
Akos Buzsaky should also recover in time to face the Blades after recovering from a sprained ankle picked up against FA cup holders Chelsea.
Player to watch: Hogan Ephraim
Always a good player to have playing for you, a player than runs his heart out for the cause. Accompanied to that his trickery and skill making this young prospect difficult to handle for the best of defences.
The young winger signed from West Ham United for an undisclosed fee after impressing during a loan spell at the club which culminated with a tremendous goal against Hull City in Gigi De Canio`s first match in charge.
A youngster that just loves to play the game, clapping even opposition fans after the final whistle, a refreshing sentiment that a lot of opposition fans have been confused by, but warmed to at the same time.
Brought to the club by John Gregory, used to his maximum effect by Mick Harford and brought back by Luigi De Canio, now there is a mouthful.
Match Facts & Stats
The Blades have definitely been the most inconsistent team this season, with high hope hopes following relegation from the Premier League, and signing`s of the ilk of James Beattie, they have flattered to deceive and find themselves 16th in the Championship, 2 points in front of Rangers.
Their last win on home soil came on December 15th against Barnsley, when a narrow 1-0 margin was enough to seal the three points for under pressure manager Bryan Robson. Previous to that their last home win was against the hapless away travellers Ipswich Town in early November. The Blades are yet to face the R`s this season, a rarity in league fixtures considering we`re now into the new year.
Rangers are beginning to put together some form with only 1 defeat in 7, at the hands of Plymouth`s last minute goal on Boxing Day. The R`s last 3 games on the road have yielded 1 Win away at Burnley, 1 Draw away at Scunthorpe and 1 Loss away at the aforementioned Plymouth, a mixed bag of results to take to the Steel City.
Historically in the league Rangers have had the better of the head to head, winning 14 games to United`s 10. The teams drawing 14 times. The results at Bramall Lane over the years have been predominantly drawn, making for an interesting encounter on the red side of Sheffield.
Referee – Nigel Miller
Assistants – RC Green & AR Parker
Fourth Official – MA Naylor
The last time Mr. Miller took charge of a Rangers game was the disappointing away defeat to Hull City. Not only were there a string of debatable decisions he also opted not to give Rangers a cast iron penalty at the death, but instead gave Lee Cook a second yellow card for arguing. A really disappointing display.
This season he has officiated 21 games, giving a total of 39 yellows and 5 reds. This included the recent sending off of Scunthorpe`s Irish defender Cliff Byrne in the last few minutes of their game away at Preston North End.
Last Time We Met
February 5th 2006 – Bramall Lane
Sheffield United 2 (Akinbiyi 21, Bircham o.g.29)
QPR 3 (Nygaard 6, Morgan o.g.56, Furlong 74)
Rangers Team: Paul Jones, Bignot, Evatt, Shittu, Rose, Bircham, Cook, Lomas (Santos ,89 ) Langley, Furlong, Nygaard (Youssouf ,72)
Subs not used Bailey, Baidoo, Thomas
For all the latest odd`s click on http://www.williamhill.com
Who – Barnsley
Where – Loftus Road
When – Saturday 19th January. 3:00pm
For all the latest news keep it Vital Football QPR