Playoff Chasers Clash
Tuesday 3rd February 2009
TWO of the Championships playoff prospects clash in W12 with the R`s looking to get the better of their rivals from Wales in order to improve a stuttering home record.
The R`s have failed to win at Loftus Road in 2009 with a run of four draws in all competitions as they face a Swansea side that has become a forced to be reckoned with in the Championship in recent weeks.
Swansea have been in frankly startling form in recent weeks undefeated in 14 games in all competitions since mid-November and even then they only lost out by the odd goal to Birmingham City.
Swansea`s legacy has been built upon a solid defensive foundation combined with a deadly eye for goal. They have been hot on the heels of Rangers in recent weeks with five straight wins in January positioning them in the playoff frame and into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Roberto Martinez has emerged as one of the promising young managers in England, with the Spaniard taking the Swans up from League One and pushing them on into challenging for honours in the Championship.
Jason Scotland has been a crucial part of the Swansea unit with 13 goals along with stalwart Ferrie Bodde who put pay to rumours linking him away from the club by sustaining a long-term injury. Summer signing Jordi Gomez on loan from Espanyol has added some flair to the line-up along with Southampton loanee Nathan Dyer.
One thing is a certainty, any side that ignores Swansea City as a promotion prospect in this division will be punished, and have been punished in recent weeks. QPR must be at their best to inflict a first defeat on the Swans in 14 games.
View From The Bench
Interim QPR skipper Gavin Mahon waxed lyrical on the Swans prior to the weekend`s clash with Reading.
He said: 'Personally, I think Swansea are the best team I've seen or played against this season.
'A lot of teams have gone there and lost. I watched them on TV the other week against Burnley and they passed them off the park.
'Their movement off the ball is so good, especially with Jason Scotland up front. I think Roberto Martinez has done a great job at Swansea and I wouldn't be surprised if he goes on to a bigger club.
'These are going to be two big games. There aren't many people talking about QPR, but we've beaten some of the top teams in this league and there's no reason why we can't keep doing that.'
R`s boss Paulo Sousa told QPR.co.uk: 'Swansea play some of the best football in this division and they are on a terrific run,'
'They have good quality and a good manager, so it will be tough.
'We will rest up tonight (Saturday) and then start focusing on the match.'
Swansea boss Roberto Martinez expected better of his side as they were held to a 2-2 draw with Southampton.
He said: 'The environment was quite difficult,'
'Their two goals were very sloppy on our part but we have taken another point towards our tally.
'The level of performance was good but not very, very good like we expect.
'But we have to be realistic, at the beginning of the season we would have been delighted to have come to St Mary's and be disappointed with a point - it shows how far we have come.'
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Rangers will be without left-winger Lee Cook who picked up his fifth yellow card against Blackpool last Tuesday. His ludicrous decision to kick the ball from the goalkeeper`s arms earned him an easy booking from substitute referee Mr Bond.
Lee Camp is due to retain his place between the sticks with first choice stopper Radek Cerny allegedly still nursing a hamstring strain despite doing a vigorous warm-up before the Reading game.
The back four will remain the same with from right to left, Matthew Connolly, Damion Stewart, Kaspars Gorkss and Damien Delaney. The defensive department have put in some accomplished performances of late and will be looking for a fourth successive clean sheet.
The remainder of the side will depend on which system Paulo Sousa chooses to adopt. As the R`s are the hosts he may well employ a 4-4-2 formation or even revert to the diamond formation in light of the omission of Cook.
Wayne Routledge, Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Liam Miller and Hogan Ephraim make up the current midfield crop, and in all likeliness Sousa will want to keep one in reserve and opt to play four across the middle. Matteo Alberti and Emmanuel Ledesma continue to wait in the wings for a possible return.
Heidar Helguson is destined to retain his starting berth, and he may well have a strike partner if Dexter Blackstock is deemed worthy of a start. Samuel Di Carmine will also prowl the periphery in search of first team action.
Rangers will also be without long-term absentees Rowan Vine, Akos Buzsaky and Martin Rowlands.
Player to watch: Heidar Helguson
Heidar will be looking for an improvement to his game from Saturday as he missed a guilt-edge chance in the first period that would have set Rangers on their way to a half time lead.
The Icelandic international latched onto a cross from Damien Delaney but having lost the ball during flight he glanced it wide of the near post rather than testing Adam Federici or better scoring.
Heidar`s goals in recent games have helped propel the R`s into the playoff frame, and he appears the only player in the forward line that is capable of scoring crucial goals, with Dexter Blackstock and Samuel Di Carmine off the boil.
His aerial prowess is a definitive plus point in the Rangers line-up as he creates a lot of chances for Rangers purely from flick ons for onrushing wingers and midfielders. Indeed Mikele Leigertwood`s strike against Derby came from a Helguson header to Routledge.
The striker that signed from Bolton Wanderers for an undisclosed fee has began to rediscover his form while remaining injury-free, and he could be the man to step up and put the Swansea defence to the sword.
Swansea City Team News:
Swansea will be without defender Angel Rangel for the trip to W12 on Tuesday night. The full back picked up his fifth booking in Swansea`s 4-1 win over Preston North End and will miss his first game since the opening game of the campaign.
Martinez may well reward goalscorer Gorka Pintado with a starting place alongside Jason Scotland after his goalscoring exploits against Southampton.
Alan Tate is set to continue at left back and he`ll be remembered by many Rangers fans as the full back that kept Iain Dowie`s men from scoring, in truth however he was never tested by a frankly awful.
Youth product Joe Allen has been impressing in the absence of Ferrie Bodde, the Dutchman praised his successor:
'I`m not surprised at all at the progress he`s made,' he told the Western Mail
'Joe is growing with every game and he`s going to be a big player.
'It won`t be long before he`s playing in the Premiership.'
Other than that Martinez will look to keep the nucleus of the squad that has undertaken a mesmeric run towards the fringes of the playoff race.
Player to watch: Jason Scotland
Vital QPR has singled out international striker Jason Scotland as the One to Watch ahead of tomorrow`s clash with Swansea
To view all the stats on the one to watch Click Here >>>.
QPR: Last 5 Games: D D W W D
Swansea City: Last 5 Games: W W W W D
Rangers have started to perform under a delighted Paulo Sousa who has only incurred one league defeat in 12 outings and are currently undefeated in eight games. Back to back away wins have propelled Rangers into playoff contention, before being held by promotion chasing Reading. Rangers have only lost two games at Loftus Road the last being in November against Burnley.
Swansea have lost the fewest games in the Championship (5), but by contrast have drawn the most (15) as they sit one point and two places behind QPR. As previously mentioned they are undefeated in 14 games under Roberto Martinez winning five in succession before the draw against Southampton at the weekend.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Swansea City: 9
Last Time Out.
Tuesday 21st October 2008 - Liberty Stadium
Coca Cola Championship
Swansea City 0
Rangers Team: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney, Damion Stewart, Fitz Hall, Peter Ramage (Matthew Connolly 80), Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Martin Rowlands (Daniel Parejo 59), Lee Cook (Emmanuel Ledesma 65), Dexter Blackstock, Akos Buzsaky.
See also: Swansea 1-2 QPR - 1979/80.
See also: QPR 3-2 Swansea City - 1979/80.
Referee- Mr G D Horwood
Assistants - Mr D Belbin & Mr M J Foley
Fourth official - Mr R Kendall
Mr Graham Horwood from Bedfordshire will officiate the crucial playoff crowd tomorrow evening. To get all the stats concerning the official Click Here >>>.
The R`s came through Paulo Sousa`s toughest test to date on Saturday, and the challenges keep coming with a resurgent Swansea side visiting W12. They have a wealth of threat about them and play nice football which is why the defence will have to be on its guard. I am fully confident if the R`s can bag a goal they can shut the Swans out; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 1-0 Rangers
Who- Nottingham Forest
Where- City Ground
When- Saturday 7th February 2009 - 3:00pm