Date:Friday October 3 2008
FOLLOWING a disappointing home draw against Blackpool on Tuesday night in W12, Rangers are without a win in three games.
They travel to second placed Birmingham City with aspirations of causing a similar upset to that of Blackpool, by beating the Blues.
Birmingham City were last season relegated to the Championship, despite a spirited performance on the final day to dispatch of Blackburn Rovers 4-1. It was Rangers` local rivals Fulham who dramatically survived the drop, to send Reading and Blues to the second tier.
While losing players such as Fabrice Muamba and Olivier Kapo, they have bolstered their squad with a plethora of Premier League experience in Marcus Bent, Lee Carsley and last season`s joint-second placed goal-scorer, Kevin Phillips with 23 goals for West Bromwich Albion.
The shock defeat at home to Blackpool was City`s only defeat of the Championship campaign, as they look to kick on and bounce back to the Premier League at the first opportunity.
R`s First team coach Iain Dowie hit out at his critics following Rangers stuttering to a home draw against the Tangerines,
'There's an obsession in this country with systems, but it's about the players out there,' Dowie told Sky Sports,
'We just didn't get going enough. We could have been 2-0 up at half-time and then there would have been no talk about systems."
'We've scored four at home twice this season using the system we started with tonight, and Emmanuel Ledesma got a hat-trick playing in it a couple of weeks ago."
'We've made a decent start to the season with that formation, reached the last 16 of the Carling Cup and are eighth in the table - one win away from fourth place.'
Blues boss Alex McLeish was disappointed that his side surrendered a last minute lead against Derby County at Pride Park,
"When you surrender the lead at that stage of the game then it feels like two points dropped but it is a tough place to come to and Derby have been getting some confidence recently, and they penned back in the second half and we defended a bit deep," he told the Birmingham Post.
"I was disappointed we didn`t show more composure in the second half on the counterattack. We could have been a bit more decisive
"By the time of the equaliser, all the subs were on and you designate whoever goes on to pick the substitutes up but then at the free-kick other players were organising who should pick up who and because of that Davies got a free run. It was disappointing."
Blues will be boosted by the news that Sebastian Larsson will be fit and available to play after his initial hamstring scare against Derby County, after pulling up in the warm up.
AZ Alkmaar loanee Kemy Augustien deputised in the role and could be in contention should Larsson suffer another set-back.
Former Arsenal striker Quincy Owusu-Abeyie has been in top form in recent fixtures - with manager Alex McLeish full of praise for the Dutch winger after his strike against Derby County.
Former Rangers loanee Stephen Kelly is unavailable for selection owing to a thigh injury.
It has been said the Alex McLeish was going to use this and the Derby fixture as an opportunity to rotate his players with Marcus Bent, Kevin Phillips and Gary O`Connor all set to feature.
Phillips` two goal haul against Rangers live on Sky last season, under the watchful eye of the same official Andy D`Urso will not have gone un-noticed by the former Scotland and Glasgow Rangers boss.
VITAL QPR writer Nik has gives a comprehensive review of Kevin Phillips as Birmingham City`s 'One to watch` ahead of Saturday`s clash at St. Andrews.
To read the review on Super Kev Click Here >>>
After what was a disappointing home display against Blackpool Iain Dowie may be forced to ring the changes - which may potentially include a formation shift.
Rangers finally burst into life in the second period after dispatching of the 4-5-1, and re-introducing the 4-4-2. The potent threat of Lee Cook was evident throughout the second half, and he looks set to start again.
Daniel Parejo and Emmanuel Ledesma were thoroughly disappointing, and Akos Buzsaky will be fighting for a starting place alongside Mikele Leigertwood, with Martin Rowlands potentially slotting in to the right wing berth.
Peter Ramage is expected to continue at right back, with the preferred central defensive partnership of Fitz Hall and Damion Stewart set to continue their flourishing partnership.
Whether Patrick Agyemang will accompany Dexter Blackstock up top will be a major talking point, and will have a great bearing as to what formation Rangers will field.
With Hogan Ephraim and Angelo Balanta starring in the reserves, alongside Italian veteran Damiano Tommasi playing a full 90 minutes, Iain Dowie will have a selection headache to contend with once again.
Rangers` free-scoring central defender has proven himself one of the R`s most potent goal-scoring threats scoring three goals in all competitions this season.
Two goals in the Carling Cup have helped propel Rangers to a fourth round tie away at Manchester United, most notably the solitary goal away to Aston Villa in Rangers giant-killing exploits.
Whilst proving formidable opposition in forward areas, Damion has also instilled a much needed solidity in a back-line that continually faltered at the beginning of the campaign.
With Fitz Hall and Kaspars Gorkss seemingly first choice at the start of the campaign, it seemed that the Jamaican international was set to sit out on the periphery, but a string of impressive displays have forced Damion into the reckoning, and he has now made himself undroppable at the heart of the defence.
Damion has made 91 appearances for Rangers in total scoring seven goals - he also played last time in St. Andrews on the end of a narrow defeat back in late 2006.
Birmingham City: Last 5 Games: W W L W D
QPR: Last 5 Games: W W L L D
Rangers have yet to win in three fixtures after their cup heroics at Aston Villa. The away defeat at Coventry couldn`t back up an impressive first away win of the campaign against Norwich City
The major surprise of the season so far was Blackpool`s exploits at St. Andrews as they beat Blues 1-0. That aside they brushed away Doncaster Rovers, Bristol City and Cardiff City in a bid to prove the Tangerines result was a blip rather than a trend.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Birmingham City: 20
Last time out
Tuesday 26th December 2006 - St. Andrews
Birmingham City 2 (Upson 22, Jerome 62)
QPR 1 (Cook 31)
Rangers Team: Simon Royce, Marcus Bignot, Michael Mancienne, Zesh Rehman, Damion Stewart, Mauro Milanese (Martin Rowlands 75), Marc Bircham (Stefan Bailey 59), Jimmy Smith, Lee Cook, Paul Furlong, Dexter Blackstock (Ray Jones 81)
See also: One Day In History - Birmingham City 1983-84 >>>.
Referee- Mr. A P D`Urso
Assistants - Mr. S J Rushton & Mr. W D Smallwood
Fourth official - Mr. S J Bratt
Andy D`Urso from Essex will officiate Rangers clash with Birmingham this Saturday. To get all the stats concerning the official Click Here >>>.
The toughest test of the Championship campaign thus far. Suffice to say it is the fixture I looked upon with most dread at the start of the season, and to be frank I`ll be glad to get it out of the way. Rangers have a chance, but the odds will be against them - If we can perform defensively we are always good value for goals; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Who- Nottingham Forest.
Where- Loftus Road, London.
When- Saturday 18th October: 3:00pm.
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