Date:Saturday March 2 2013
QUEENS Park Rangers have one final chance to kick-start an utterly forgettable season.
They face a Southampton side in the midst of a revival despite a bizarre change in management, if only in terms of timing, as Nigel Adkins was cast aside despite back to back promotions at St Mary's.
Mauricio Pochettino has been handed the long-term task of bringing out the finest youth products from a system that has developed the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - a long-term vision that Nicola Cortest doesn't impinge the short-term necessaries.
Queens Park Rangers have yet more stories of indiscipline and divides among the ranks if indeed you believe the ever-reliable tabloid newspapers this morning. Harry Redknapp has all this to contend with against the backdrop of a crucial encounter.
Without being sensationalist, it is essentially win or bust for QPR today as they risk a relegation rivial in Southampton pulling clear and making that ever growing gap an unassailable one.
HEAD 2 HEAD
The two teams through history have proven very evenly competitive, with Saints edging the overall head to head with 27 wins to Rangers' 26. The two sides unable to be separated on 21 occasions.
The last time the two sides met in the top flight in Southampton, Saints bested the eventually relegated QPR. Jason Dodd and Matthew Le Tissier netting in a 2-0 win at the Dell with a bad day for David Bardsley being compounded with a red card.
Earlier in this season Mark Hughes took charge of his final QPR game in the fixture dubbed 'El Sackico'. Saints lauded their boss Adkins in a fine win over a Rangers side that appeared down and out even at that stage.
Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon put the Saints two up before half time before Junior Hoilett gave Hughes some hope when he halves the arrears. Anton Ferdinand then put through his own net to put pay to Hughes' tenure.
Opposition Focus: SOUTHAMPTON
A mesmerising surge through the leagues has seen Southampton turn their fortunes around and pack a punch once more in the top flight. There was a time where Southampton could be considered a one trick pony, with the aforementioned Matthew Le Tissier continually carrying his Saints side.
Southamton's problems ran deeper than just abject Premier League form and relegation and subsequent financial problems saw them fall further behind rivals Portsmouth and slip into the abyss of League One. Then - the revival started.
Alan Pardew was spending money wisely to try and set up a promotion winning side from League One but was rather surprisingly dispatched of by Nicola Cortese, shortly after the death of Markus Liebherr. Nigel Adkins took over after leaving his post at Scunthorpe and the revival got underway.
Back to back promotions saw them back to the top flight in emphatic fashion, with Adkins the hero of Saints supporters. If not Cortese however, who ousted the popular boss on the back of a spirited 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Mauricio Pochettino took charge as Saints look to confirm their safety.
Player focus: RICKIE LAMBERT
Rickie Lambert is testemant to learning your trade at a lower level and getting your chance to continually improve. Bombed out by Blackpool and not having the best of times at Macclesfield, Lambert eventually found his way to Stockport County.
After a mini revival at County, he moved to Rochdale where his career started to truly kick-start. He then made a move to Bristol Rovers where he continually found himself at the pinnacle of the club and league scoring charts and established himself as a highly sought after talent.
Saints snared the forward for just over £1m, a snip considering his role in rejuvenating the club, as he adapted to the Championship and the Premier League like a duck to water. A battering ram with the finesse of cultured playmaker, Lambert would be an asset to any side, and could be the difference against QPR.
Match Prediction: SOUTHAMPTON V QPR
This is a very difficult game to predict. There will be nerves despite Southampton's enterprising and all-action style and I would expect there to be goals. I don't think that QPR have the fantastic ability to be able to keep a clean sheet, lets face it, elite sides have come away from St Mary's having conceded one or two.
Rangers will need to keep the score down and possibly keep things tight early on if they are to be successful. In Loic Remy, Rangers have a weapon, a weapon that sadly they have not been able to unleash in recent weeks owing to injury. A goal from nothing would be well received by a sizeable travelling support.
I don't think that Rangers will keep a clean sheet, but I also think they have the capability to score, if maybe not more than one. Therefore I believe 1-1 will be a result that perhaps neither team crave, but could be the ultimate possibility.
Date:Saturday March 2 2013
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