Date:Friday May 2 2008
Sunday 4th May 2008
WEST BROMWICH ALBION can this weekend lift the title at Loftus Road providing they can match or better Stoke City`s result at home to Leicester City.
The final game of the season is upon us, with what seems like an age ago we made the trip down to Bristol City for the first game in a season where the future was uncertain. Suffice to say the future looks brighter and clearer on this side of the tunnel.
One can even dream of emulating West Brom`s achievements this season, in the season that will seem an eternity to come during the summer months. The resources are here at Rangers to really take on the Baggies mantle and make a push for it next season.
What better way to finish this season off however, by beating undoubtedly the Championship`s best side this season.
De Canio was disappointed with Mr. Joslin`s performance against Norwich City:
"The referee made some crucial errors, and that cost us today."
"Maybe Norwich would have won the match even if the sending off hadn`t happened"
"They had far more to play for than we did but we will never know that now because of that early decision."
"We have to accept the judgement of the referee, even if we don`t necessarily agree with it."
"Referee`s have to make split second decisions, and it can be difficult for them, but I feel we were unlucky with an important one today."
De Canio also explained the tactical shift that saw both wide players withdrawn with a preference to two strikers remaining upfront:
"We needed to keep two up front to give us any chance…but when the deflected effort gave them their second goal in the second, we ran out of options"
"The red card and the deflected goal summed up our day"
There was however still high praise for his players:
"We did what was possible. The task was really difficult after the sending off, but I am pleased with the players` efforts. They never stopped running and we kept fighting until the end."
Rangers top goalscorer Akos Buzsaky will not be in contention once again for a place in the squad after missing out against Norwich on Saturday. The Magical Magyar is recovering from an ankle injury picked up on international duty, and did play a part in the home win against Charlton, but didn`t feature at Carrow Road.
Patrick Agyemang is touch and go following his hamstring troubles, Angelo Balanta will be ready once again to step into a starting place upfront alongside the prolific Dexter Blackstock.
Fitz Hall could be in contention for a surprise recall after a groin injury had deemed to have him out for the duration, but with Damion Stewart`s appeal against a red card against Norwich being rejected, Rangers will be forced to field Zesh Rehman, unless a tactical shift is made involving either Chris Barker or Kieran Lee at full-back.
Rangers reverted to three in midfield against the Canaries once going down to ten men, with Mikele Leigertwood joining Gavin Mahon and Martin Rowlands in the middle, however it should be the latter duo that start in this fixture.
Rowan Vine still evidently unavailable owing to a broken leg.
The youngster now has a big chance to shine on a big stage and Vital QPR backs him to cause worry to a troubled West Brom defensive line.
The young Colombian has made 5 starts this season, also being called from the bench 5 times in the league and once in the cup at Stamford Bridge. He scored his only goal of the season and indeed his young career when he drifted inside from a make-shift left wing position, to use his strikers instinct to poach a goal against the Blades.
Balanta has showed touch of real class, and his confidence must be buoyed with Flavio constantly making references to a young Michael Schumacher.
This is Angelo`s time to dazzle infront of a packed house, and doubtless he will show his class before the day is out.
Chris Brunt will be looking for a starting place on the left-wing after scoring what will be remembered as a promotion saving goal. As others were losing their heads around them, snatching at chances and blowing good openings, Brunt kept his cool, slotting past Richard Wright to all but hand the baggies promotion.
Roman Bednar could also move into a starting role after having a good impact from the bench against Southampton after replacing Ishmael Miller. Albion are set to stick with the same back four which includes Neil Clement, son of Rangers legend Dave at centre-back alongside ex-Luton player Leon Barnett.
The players will wear shirts sporting number 20, Fillipe Teixeira before the match to celebrate his contribution to a season that was cut short due to a knee ligament injury, and henceforth he will not take part.
Jonathan Greening and Robert Koren were in great touch the last time the two sides met, and they will continue in midfield with a view to punishing any errors from the Rangers rearguard to the effect that was evident at the Hawthornes.
The man to watch however will be Zoltan Gera.
Hungarian born Gera, signed for the Baggies shortly before the start of the 2004/05 season under the guidance of Gary Megson. He signed from Hungarian outfit Ferencvaros for what seemed a large £1.5m price-tag. That has seen been made a mockery of however with some scintillating displays wide-left, wide-right and through the middle.
Gera has scored 21 goals in 103 starts for the Baggies, a good scoring rate for a wide midfield position, taking into account how much he created for his side in wide positions also. Drifting in for the occasional goal as was shown in his last outing to Loftus Road.
He has face the R`s three times in total, playing first in that sensational game at the Hawthornes with the R`s somehow claiming a 3-3 draw with Marc Nygaard on target for the equaliser late on in a game littered with defensive ineptitude.
Later that season the Baggies exacted revenge and that man Gera hit the winner as mentioned above drifting inside from the right channel to slam the ball home from an acute angle.
Gera also had his fun up against Zesh Rehman in Rangers 5-1 thrashing by the Baggies, which saw the untimely end of John Gregory. West Brom unstoppable from every angle that day as Gregory paid with his job.
Zoltan Gera is a wing wizard that must be stopped if the R`s are to claim anything from this encounter in W12.
The defeat at Carrow Road against Norwich City was only the R`s 2nd in 13 games in an impressive end to the season under Gigi, however only one win on the road this calendar this is a cause for concern.
Rangers at home are a different prospect, only losing once at home this calendar year, but since that fateful night against Burnley the R`s home form has improved, winning 4 of the subsequent 6 home games.
The Baggies form in both league and cup is well-documented, by reaching the F.A. Cup semi-final and climbing to the league summit. They have lost only 1 league fixture in 12, 54 home goals this campaign, 5 of them against Rangers back in September, make the Baggies a terrifying prospect for defenders.
West Brom are unbeaten away from home dating back to February when Barnsley narrowly got the better of the league leaders 2-1 at Oakwell. Since then they have won 4 and drawn 2 on their travels, looking better away from the Hawthornes.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Albion also have the better of the head to head record winning 12 games to Rangers 10, with the teams drawing 7 times.
Last time out
31st March 2007 - Loftus Road
QPR 1 (Blackstock 63)
West Brom 2 (Phillips 48, Gera 84) 2
Rangers Team: Camp, Mancienne, Stewart, Cullip, Bignot, Ainsworth (Ricketts 83) Idiakez (Lomas 14) Bolder, Cook, Furlong, Nygaard (Blackstock 61)
Last time out
30th September 2007 -Hawthorns
West Brom 5 (Phillips 17, 39, Miller 18, Koren 57, Greening 66)
QPR 1 (Ainsworth 24)
Rangers Team: Camp, Rehman (Curtis 46) Cullip, Stewart, Barker (Bignot 60) Ainsworth, Bolder, Rowlands, Moore, Blackstock, Sahar (Ephraim 60).
Referee- P Taylor
Assistants - SG Cooke & D Naylor
Fourth official - PW Mellin
For a full report on the match official click here
We could be on a hiding to nothing unless we have a strong and resolute defence to deal with one of the leagues most powerful strike force, but they do leak goals at the back; That`s why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 1-1 Draw
For all the latest match odds click on www.williamhill.com
Fixtures TBA - Season 2008/09.
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Date:Friday May 2 2008
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