Had Sunderland not rid themselves of Steve Bruce, swiftly moved to appoint Martin O`Neill as his replacement, rapidly rose from 17th to 9th in a matter of months & embarked on an impressive FA Cup run, QPR may still have Neil Warnock at the helm with the possibility of Premier League football secured for another season. Instead, panic ensued at Loftus Road, Sunderland`s new manager syndrome blueprint was deified & we are now only a matter of games away from an inevitable relegation. Nothing is ever that easy for QPR.
In short, Steve Bruce was not good enough (both at managing Sunderland and speaking louder than anything above a whisper), Martin O`Neill was the perfect appointment and The Black Cats are now sitting comfortably in 9th – probably the minimum expectation for a club of Sunderland`s set-up & stature. Any team that has spent £74m on approximately 22 players in 2 & 1/2 years would expect a better return than a shocking 17th placed league position, all too frequent mediocre performances and anything but the customary blame game from a ‘steady` manager.
O`Neill has changed all that. He has managed to rejuvenate a side that has beaten the likes of Man City & Liverpool, unearthed new talents in McClean and Sessegnon and is on the verge of a possible FA Cup final. Despite owning a pitch side Sunday League coaching attire that is nothing short of Sunday League embarrassing and a Neil Warnock/Alex Ferguson mix of a goal celebration, O`Neill is clearly doing something right.
Martin O`Neill`s Sunderland side welcome QPR to the Stadium of Light on Saturday with only one win to their name in their last six league games, will be missing their midfield warrior Lee Cattermole, & usual stars McClean and Larsson have underperformed the last few weeks. QPR are flying high after their emphatic comeback against Liverpool and will be keen to make the most of a game where they won`t be up against one of the Premier League elite in their daunting end of season run in.
QPR 3 (Derry, Cisse, Mackie)
Liverpool 2 (Coates, Kuyt)
Team: Kenny, Onouha, Traore (Taiwo), Ferdinand, Young, Diakite, Derry, Taarabt, Barton (Mackie), Cisse (Buzsaky , Zamora
Mignolet, Bardsley, Bridge (Colback), Turner, Kyrgiakos, Larsson, Gardner, Vaughan, McClean, Campbell (Ji Dong-Won), Bendtner
Sunderland Team News:
Armand Traore picked up an injury in a challenge with Charlie Adam just before half time on Wednesday, resulting in both players being substituted at the break. The left back has sustained a grade 1 hamstring injury and will miss out on Saturday, with his natural replacement Taye Taiwo presumably slotting in. Clint Hill has travelled with the squad but is expected to miss out again.
Mark Hughes has the tough task of deciding whether to leave ‘captain` Joey Barton out after his abysmal performance on Wednesday (the worst of his career apparently). There is no denying Jamie Mackie changed the game when he came on, but certain people have alluded to the winger`s impact as a substitute. With Mackie, Buzsaky and Wright-Phillips all waiting in the wings, Barton`s place looks under threat – it is whether Hughes has the bottle to drop his captain or endure another week of misplaced passes and comical set piece attempts.
Possible line up:
Young – Onuoha – Ferdinand – Taiwo
Mackie – Derry – Diakite – Taarabt
Cisse – Zamora
Player to watch: Samba Diakite
Bar the first 15 minutes, Samba Diakite was simply outstanding on Wednesday night. Whilst his first touch and passing accuracy was woeful for the opening stages of the game, the Senegalese international did not shirk away from the challenge and was inspirational at the heart of midfield.
He sauntered past Adam and Gerrard like they weren`t there at times, and was always in the right place at the right time when defensive duties were required. A much better version of Mikele Leigertwood, Diakite`s engine and workmanlike attitude could prove invaluable to QPR in their remaining games.
QPR Team News:
Stephane Sessegnon is expected to come straight back into the starting line-up following his three match suspension. This could see the attacking midfielder slot in behind Nicklas Bendtner up front and Fraizer Campbell dropping out. Jack Colback and John O`Shea could possibly return to the starting line up with Wayne Bridge looks set to retain his spot at left-back with Keiran Richardson continuing to miss out with a calf injury.
Bardsley- O`Shea – Turner – Bridge
Larsson – Colback – Gardner – McClean
Sessegnon – Bendtner
Player to watch: James McClean
Vital QPR has identified James McClean as the One to Watch
Match Facts & Stats
Queens Park Rangers: LLDLW
HEAD 2 HEAD
Queens Park Rangers: 10
LAST TIME OUT
Premier League – 21/12/11
QPR 2 (Mackie, Helguson)
Sunderland 3 (Bendtner, Sessegnon, Brown)
Team: Kenny, Gabbidon, Traore (Hall), Connolly (Bothroyd), Young, Derry, Faurlin, Barton, Wright-Phillips (Taarabt), Mackie, Helguson
Referee: Mike Jones
Had QPR not decided to turn up for the last 15 minutes of the Liverpool game on Wednesday, I would be resigned to a 3-0 defeat and a step closer to relegation. But football throws up these wonderful/annoying conundrums, and now I, along with probably every other QPR fan, have some sort of hope that the great escape is on.
I expect goals to be the order of the day on Saturday. QPR will play with two up front and it will be unlikely they will hold back in gunning for those much needed 3 points.
Sunderland similarly will play with attacking principles as they have nothing to lose and will be at home. Cisse, Ferdinand and Onuoha will be returning to their old club and with any luck with will return to haunt their ex-employers. I`m backing Cisse to bag a brace, but QPR`s defensive frailties to let them down yet again. 2-2.
When:24/03/12 – 15:00