Loftus Road, London
December 30, 2012; 16:00 GMT
Liverpool travel to Loftus Road this weekend to face relegation strugglers Queen’s Park Rangers. After a bitterly disappointing loss to Stoke City during midweek, Liverpool will be looking to get back to winning ways. QPR have had an improvement in form since Harry Redknapp took over. The London-based club have registered six points from the last six games but have had back to back defeats. Both sides will be looking to get three points as they look to climb the table in the festive period.
Harry Redknapp has a knack for turning around struggling teams. His golden touch at Tottenham helped them transform from relegation strugglers under Juande Ramos to top-4 contenders. QPR fans will hope he can do the same with their club. Queen’s Park Rangers have spent a lot of money in recent seasons but Mark Hughes only narrowly managed to keep the club afloat. Relegation would be catastrophic for the club and Harry Redknapp will have to pull another rabbit out of the hat to ensure QPR play in the Premier League next season.
Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side has been very much a case of Jekyll and Hyde. A fantastic display of flowing football in the 4-0 win against Fulham interspersed by two dire performances resulting in 3-1 defeats against Aston Villa and Stoke have pretty much summed up Liverpool’s season so far. Brendan Rodgers side is severely lacking in consistency and it is difficult to predict which Liverpool will turn up to play. The Reds now sit in 10th spot and eight points behind their pre-season target of Champions League qualification.
Liverpool will be looking for three points to end the year on a high. Brendan Rodgers has hinted at making additions to the squad in the transfer window, but the Reds must keep pace with their top four rivals or risk being out of the race by January. Queens Park Rangers should ideally be beaten on paper by Liverpool, but Harry Redknapp will sense an opportunity to get a victory against a side which is still finding its feet and getting used to a distinct style of football. Both teams have underperformed in the League and will look to set the record straight.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Queens Park Rangers
Harry Redknapp has had a lot of injury problems and will be without the services of goalkeeper Julio Cesar, Ryan Nelsen and Nedum Onuoha. Jose Bosingwa is also not expected to be fit until next year. Park Ji Sung and Keiron Dyer also miss out along with Zamora and Johnson leaving Cisse as the only fit forward in the squad.
Harry Redknapp is likely to name an unchanged line-up against Liverpool. Robert Green will continue in goal in Cesar’s absence. With Nelsen missing, the defence will be marshalled by Anton Ferdinand who will be partnered by Hill. Brazilian youngster Fabio will start at right back with Armand Traoré lining up on the opposite flank.
The defence will be shielded by hardworking midfielders Alejandro Faurlin and Stephane Mbia. Jamie Mackie will be lining up at right wing with Shaun Wright-Phillips starting on the opposite flank. Adel Taarabt will be playing as the attacking midfielder behind ex-Liverpool forward Djibril Cissé.
While Redknapp is not famed for his tactical nous it will be interesting to see how he sets up his team against Liverpool. Redknapp knows his team do not have the tactical discipline to sit deep and play on the counter against Liverpool so it is likely that he will try and outgun the Merseyside giants at home. QPR’s attacks are likely to be swift involving minimum build-up play in contrast to their visitors. Redknapp will be likely to surrender the possession battle and try to attack with pace.
Mbia will be the deepest of the midfielders and shall be expected to break down Liverpool’s attacking moves. Faurlin is the principal passer in the side and Argentinian is expected to initiate QPR’s attacks. Faurlin will also be entrusted with the responsibility to track Steven Gerrard’s late runs in the box. The midfield battle will be key and Taarabt will have to drop deep on occasions to help out his midfield colleagues. The Moroccan is not renowned for his defensive abilities but Queens Park Rangers will have to defend as a unit if they have to get something out of this game. Taarabt is the most creative player for QPR and he will be expected to play Cissé and the wingers in behind Liverpool’s defence.
Both Fabio and Traoré are attacking full-backs and they Redknapp will ask them to push up and join the attack as much as possible while Mackie and Wright Phillips will be looking to cut inside and get into shooting positions. Liverpool’s defence has been shaky and both wingers will be looking to run the channels. Johnson and Enrique shall both look to join in the attack and QPR’s wingers will look to exploit the space left behind.
Cissé had been a bit of an enigma during his time at Liverpool but he will be absolutely crucial to QPR’s hopes. The Frenchman has a penchant for pulling off the spectacular and QPR fans will be hoping he can pull a rabbit out of the hat against his old club. Cisse will be looking to play on the shoulder of the Liverpool centre backs and shall be looking to use his pace to get in behind the defence.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Green; Fabio, Ferdinand, Hill, Traoré; Faurlin, Mbia; Mackie, Taarabt, Wright-Phillips; Cissé.
Liverpool have a busy festive period and Brendan Rodgers is likely to rest some players for this game. Barring Fabio Borini who is nearing a return from injury and Martin Kelly, the manager has a fully fit squad to choose from. Luis Suarez has been playing through an injury to his ankle but he is expected to play in this game.
Pepe Reina will continue in goal and Agger and Skrtel should start at centre back. However, Rodgers might opt to rest Agger for this game and play Carragher instead. Johnson and Enrique will continue in the full back positions.
Lucas will play as a defensive midfielder. Gerrard, who has been in fine goal-scoring form in recent games will partner him in midfield while Allen is also expected to make a return to the starting line-up. Sterling will make a return to the starting line-up to play against his former club while Downing is expected to start on the right flank after his impressive showing in recent games. Suarez will once again lead the line and play as the central striker.
Like always Johnson and Enrique will look to bomb forward as much as possible and join the attack. The full backs will be looking to stretch the play and provide width to the team. Agger and Skrtel will be looking to play a high backline to minimise the gap between midfield and defence. Lucas will be shielding the centre backs and will be responsible for marking Taarabt. Liverpool will look to stifle the Moroccan and not allow him time and space to make an impact. Gerrard and Allen will look to press as high up the pitch as possible. Faurlin and Mbia are likely to be constantly under pressure and The Reds will try to win the ball back in dangerous areas.
Suarez will look to drop deep and create space for the other attacking midfielders. Gerrard will look to bomb forward from midfield and run beyond Suarez. Downing has been in sparkling form of late and will be looking to cut in from the right. Sterling shall try to mirror the same in the opposite flank. Suarez once again float around the opposition penalty area and try and make his trademark mazy runs into the box. He will also try to pinch the ball from the likes of Mbia and play in Sterling and Downing who will both be looking to impress the manager who recently sounded a warning to his underperforming squad.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Allen, Gerrard; Downing, Suarez, Sterling.
Players To Watch Out For
Adel Taarabt (Queens Park Rangers)
Harry Redknapp recently described Taarabt as a player with enormous potential who could go on to become a “top top player”. QPR fans still have to see the best of Adel Taarabt but the Moroccan can be devastating on his day. Taarabt will be looking play in the hole between defence and midfield and try to link up with Cisse. Taarabt is one of the most creative players in the pitch and QPR will be looking to him to manufacture goal scoring opportunities for his side. Taarabt is a strong dribbler and his pace will trouble the Liverpool centre-backs. He can also take shots from range and Pepe Reina will have to be wary of his threat.
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s captain has found his goal scoring touch once again and has scored in each of the last three games. Gerrard has been the top passer and crosser for his side and his contribution to the side is invaluable. With Lucas back in the side the Huyton born midfielder has been given license to go forward. Gerrard will look to supply balls to Liverpool’s front line and also join up in the attack on the right occasion. In the form he is in currently, few would bet against Gerrard putting in another man of the match performance.
Queens Park Rangers 1 – 2 Liverpool
Liverpool would be the favourites to win this game but it is difficult to predict whether Brendan Rodgers’ men will play to potential. Queen’s Park Rangers will look to bounce back after a back to back defeats and Harry Redknapp will fancy his side’s chances against Liverpool. We expect possession to be dominated by The Reds and plenty of shots on goal. Queen’s Park Rangers are not sound defensively and we Liverpool should get all three points away from home.