BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
VENUE – Loftus Road (Capacity – 18,360)
KO – 1500 GMT
Referee – Anthony Taylor
Relegation threatened Queens Park Rangers host league leaders Manchester United at Loftus Road. Harry Redknapp’s team is struggling in the league with only 2 wins and at the bottom of the league. The Londoners have it all to do in the remaining 12 games but it doesn’t get any easier when Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United is in town. The league leaders are trying to wrestle the title back from Manchester City and not wanting to drop points against the bottom team in the league would definitely not be on the to-do-list. The Rangers will have to be at their very best if they are to have any chance of getting anything from this match. The league leaders are in prime form at the moment and they will be intent on maintaining the 12 point gap between themselves and their neighbors. QPR on the other hand may be fighting a lost battle but they are not going to give up till the final whistle. Harry Redknapp has been in situation before and has got out if it with positive results. He will need his team to be extremely disciplined against the leaders. David versus Goliath is what this match seems like but whether it turns out that way, only time will tell.
Manchester United lost the title on goal difference last season to Manchester City. One of the reasons of their downfall was not being to beat the teams in the lower half of the table with a significant difference. Win is a win but when the team loses the title on goal difference every win is scrutinized. Harry Redknapp’s QPR is deep down in the relegation quicksand and Sir Alex Ferguson will warn his team of any complacency. He would want the mistakes of rectified and with good measure. The league leaders are the top scorers in the league and would like to register a handsome win against the Londoners. Robin van Persie who was half rested in the FA cup will definitely start and with Wayne Rooney expected to return from illness, scoring goals will not be a problem. The return to form of Portuguese winger Nani is a pleasant surprise for the manager. It gives him options given the poor form of Valencia and Young. The Portuguese was awarded the man of the match on Monday and the performance may earn him a place in the starting eleven. On the defensive front United have little problems, if any. Evans has been a consistent feature in the side while Ferdinand and Vidic have been rotated given the fitness problems. Overall given the quality in the side a 12 point lead with 12 games remaining, the title may be very be done and dusted with the only problem the manager may face is complacency.
Harry Redknapp took over the managerial job at QPR when the team was positioned at the bottom of the league. The manager who has previously saved other clubs from relegation may have taken a job which may not be achievable. Despite the talent at his disposal QPR might end up being relegated but Redknapp doesn’t get paid for being pessimistic. He will have to juggle the players and try to save his club from relegation. Mid season transfer signings like Remy and Samba has given the side a bit of steel to the side. Samba has experience in the permier league as was previously with Blackburn Rovers. Only 2 wins out of 26 matches is not a record which is enough for retaining status in the premier league. With only 12 games left the road ahead is looking bleak for the Rangers. They face a Manchester United side that is desperate to win the league title this season and will take no game lightly. It will be an understatement to say that Redknapp’s will have to put in a shift of the season to stop United from scoring. They will have to work tirelessly throughout the 90 mins which is easier said than done. A relentless Manchester United is sometimes impossible to stop and that is the task at hand for the London club. Desperate situations call for desperate measure and the team will have to string out a performance to match the opposition and give their hopes of staving off relegation a big boost. A sub plot for Park Ji Sung who faces his former employers while Brazilian Fabio da Silva, who cannot take any part in the match as he is on loan from Manchester United will be watching his brother from the stands.
Queens Park Rangers – Out of the FA cup, the Capitol One Cup and languishing at the bottom in the league table. This is the story of the Queens Park Rangers. Getting a point against the team sitting at the top on the right end of the table will be an achievement. Harry Redknaap will have to take a safety first approach against United. He went for a 4-4-2 formation against league champions Manchester City and got away with a point. The same approach may prove costly against United, though that will not deter Redknapp. Julio Cesar has been the signing of the season for the club. The Brazilian has been sensational this season and is an automatic starter in goal. Nedum Onuoha will start on the left back position while Frenchman Djimi Traore will start on the left back position. Ryan Nelsen’s retirement left a big hole in the centre of defense but the signing of Samba has solved that problem. He will partner Clint Hill in the centre of defense. Stephen Mbia and Sean Derry will start the match in the middle of the park. Adel Taarabt is a livewire and will definitely start on the right wing while either Shaun Wright Philips or Park Ji Sung may start on the left side. Loic Remy is ruled out with injury which means Bobby Zamora will start upfront with Spaniard Granero staring just behind the English striker.
Manchester United – Sir Alex Ferguson has a strong squad to select from, a luxury which he hasn’t been afforded too many times this season. David de Gea has been indispensable during the latter part of this season. He has been brilliant and despite some errors he is the No.1 keeper for the club. Rafael, given a rest for the FA cup tie will be back for this one. Evra like the Brazilian was also rested for the game and will be back as well. Vidic played the game on Monday and his rehabilitation may not allow him to play two matches in the same week yet meaning Ferdinand and Evans will start in the centre of defense. Nani was brilliant against Reading and that would probably earn him a place in the starting eleven. Valencia might have to make way as the Portuguese is at his best on the right. Ashley Young will start on the left wing. Carrick and Cleverly make a very good partnership and will get a start in the match. Rooney and Persie will lead the attack against the Londoners.
Queens Park Rangers – Esteban Granero – When the Spanish star left Real Madrid to join QPR in the summer he would never have though that he will be fighting to save relegation. He has been very good since leaving Spain. He has been one of the bright lights for the club this season. He plays his best football in the No. 10 role, just behind the striker. While QPR will have to concentrate more on the defensive side of things in the match, Granero may be the talisman whenever they get a chance to attack the visitors. He was very highly rated at Madrid but joined the English side and despite not competing for top honors this season the Spaniard has not done any harm to his reputation. He is technically gifted and will have to use every inch of his talent to help his side survive in the league this season.
Manchester United – Robin van Persie – The league top scorer is going through a mini slump. His miss against Real Madrid was one that he would be kicking himself for and he will be keen to make amends. He has been prolific for Manchester United in his short career at the club and has been seen as the missing jigsaw in the team by many. His linkup play with the other forwards has been very good which makes me even more dangerous. He can not only score himself but also can thread a pass through a needle to teammates. His defensive work at set pieces is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Against Real Madrid he was absolutely immense and even though he might not have to do so much against QPR he will still be important.
Written by ABHIMANYU HALAKHANDI
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