Preview - QPR v Cardiff City
VIRTUALLY assured of their Championship safety - Queens Park Rangers are now charged with the task of throwing the playoff race wide open as they face Cardiff City.
The Bluebirds are entrenched in a playoff battle and look perfectly poised for a top-six finish, sitting comfortably seven points adrift of seventh-placed Blackpool.
The nerves of Welsh club will not be eased by mere statistics however, having missed out on the final day of last season, owing to Preston North End's victory over Rangers at Deepdale.
Rangers meanwhile have all-but secured their stay in the Championship owing to a stunning 2-0 win over Crystal Palace last weekend - with Neil Warnock sending his former club into the relegation mire.
A side that looked transformed in terms of confidence and enterprise, Rangers will now look to secure back to back wins while maintaining Warnock's unbeaten home record.
The R's recent rivalry with Cardiff stems from years of fighting for promotion in the Second Division which culminated in City triumphing on their home turf of the Millennium Stadium.
Since then the fortunes of both clubs has fluctuated but there can be little question of their motives this weekend in what is an important fixture.
Crystal Palace 0
QPR 2 (Buzsáky 11, Gorks 60)
Team: Radek Černý, Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart (Jay Simpson 8), Kaspars Gorks, Dusko Tosic, Alejandro Faurlín, Mikele Leigertwood, Ákos Buzsáky, Adel Taarabt (Josh Parker 90), Hogan Ephraim, Tamás Priskin.
Cardiff City 0
Team: David Marshall, Anthony Gerrard, Kevin McNaughton, Mark Kennedy, Peter Whittingham, Joe Ledley (Chris Burke 69), Darcy Blake, Stephen McPhail, Michael Chopra (Ross McCormack 46), Kelvin Etuhu (Aaron Wildig 69), Jay Bothroyd.
QPR Team News:
Neil Warnock is likely to keep a settled side until Rangers' safety is mathematically assured with one change enforced on the R'
Radek Černý will start for Rangers in a bid to become Warnock's number one while Kaspars Gorks will be partnered by Peter Ramage in the absence of Damion Stewart (fractured skull).
Mikele Leigertwood and Duko Toić should start at full-back given their fine displays at Palace, while Alejandro Faurlín is poised to be partnered by Ákos Buzsáky.
Tamás Priskin, Adel Taarabt and Hogan Ephraim should start behind Jay Simpson will Lee Cook looking on from the bench - while Jay Simpson should start up top.
Martin Rowlands (knee) and Gavin Mahon (knee) remain the only long term absentees.
Possible line up:
Leigertwood - Ramage - Gorks - Toić
Buzsáky - Faurlín
Priskin - Taarabt - Ephraim
Player to watch: Ákos Buzsáky
Ákos Buzsáky hit fine form against Crystal Palace at the weekend and he will be looking to retain his place in the centre of the park against Cardiff.
The Hungarian posed a genuine threat to the Eagles rearguard and a truly stunning effort helped to cap off a vintage display in the heart of the park.
The importance for Buzsáky cannot be overlooked as he looked to nail himself down in Warnock's line-up and this weekend gives him another valuable opportunity.
To read his career profile Click Here >>>
Cardiff City Team News:
Cardiff have been boosted by the return of Mark Hudson for the trip to Queens Park Rangers with only a couple of long-term absentees omitted from the squad.
David Marshall should start in goal with Kevin McNaughton and ex-QPR wide-man Mark Kennedy starting at full-back. Bluebirds skipper Hudson could return following ankle surgery but will have to displace formidable duo Anthony Gerrard and Darcy Blake.
Kelvin Etuhu and Peter Whittingham should start wide with Stephen McPhail and Joe Ledley starting in the middle. Michael Chopra should be fit enough to start following a neck problem and will be partnered by Jay Bothroyd.
Gavin Rae and Miguel Commingues are the only unavailable players owing to long-term injury complaints.
McNaughton - Blake - Gerrard - Kennedy
Etuhu - McPhail - Ledley - Whittingham
Bothroyd - Chopra
Player to watch: Michael Chopra
Cardiff forward Michael Chopra has been outlined as the One to Watch as the Bluebirds travel to Loftus Road this weekend.
The striker has been in decent form following his record capture from Sunderland and remains one of the Championship's most potent threats.
He is sure to give defensive duo Peter Ramage and Kaspars Gorkss a tough time this weekend should he be fit enough to take part following a neck injury.
To read our profile of the winger Click Here >>>
The Stat Attack
Queens Park Rangers: D D D L W
Cardiff City: W W W D D
HEAD 2 HEAD
Queens Park Rangers: 31
Cardiff City: 24
LAST TIME OUT
Coca Cola Championship - 19/09/2009
Cardiff City Stadium
Cardiff City 0
Queens Park Rangers 2 (Simpson 19, 40)
Team: Radek Černý, Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspars Gorks, Damion Stewart, Gary Borrowdale, Wayne Routledge, Ben Watson, Martin Rowlands, Ákos Buzsáky, Rowan Vine (Patrick Agyemang 82), Jay Simpson (Alessandro Pellicori 77)
QPR 2-1 Cardiff City - 17-01-1970
Cardiff City 1-4 QPR - 12-10-1988
Referee: Mr Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
Assistants: Mr Neil Hair (Cambs) & Mr Steven Phipps (Oxon)
Fourth Official: Mr Steve Creighton (Berkshire)
Young official Michael Oliver will take charge as Rangers host Cardiff City this weekend - in what will be his second QPR game.
Mr Oliver refereed the game that contributed to Cardiff's downfall last season as Preston beat Rangers 2-1 to knock City out of a playoff place.
He has proven himself to be a rather sensible referee in recent seasons since joining the list and it will be interesting to see how he manages a keenly-contested affair.
To read our report on the official Click Here >>>
Rangers defenders will come under a sterner test this weekend but the ease with which they deal with Palace attackers gives me confidence they are capable of keeping another clean sheet.
It's a tough one to predict but as ever the heart rules the head in this one and the odd goal may well be enough to secure a highly-sough win.
CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTION LEAGUE >>>
BEAT THE CLOCK >>>
Teams: QPR v Watford
Date: Tuesday April 13, 2010 - 8.00pm
Ground: Loftus Road, London