|Redknapp trying every trick as City come to town â full match preview|
Tue 29th Jan 2013 08:30 by Clive Whittingham
Ahead of a monumentally difficult home game against Manchester City, QPR manager Harry Redknapp has been using his renowned media poise to work himself into position for this week’s transfer deadline.
QPR (20th) v Man City (2nd)
Premier League >>> Tuesday January 29, 2013 >>> Loftus Road, London, W12 >>> Kick Off 7.45pm
Ahh it seems so long ago that Harry Redknapp said he wouldn’t be looking to spend a lot of money in this transfer window because the QPR owners were “nice people” who had “had their trousers pulled down once already.” In fact it was barely a month ago, after a defeat at Newcastle, but that’s certainly long enough for Redknapp to forget mentioning it because post MK Dons embarrassment Redknapp said “like I've said all along, that I need to improve the squad.”
Redknapp is the journalist’s dream manager, because he never ducks a question or refuses to comment. But anybody who believes he’s winding his car window down so that Gary Cotterill can stick his toothy mug in out of the cold for a while out of the goodness of his heart are probably also naïve enough to think that Redknapp’s sudden decision to throw his hat in the ring for the Ukraine job was through a genuine interest and desire to manage in eastern Europe rather than just hurrying the departure of Mark Hughes along ahead of a run of winnable games. This, remember, a manager who once turned down the Newcastle job because it was too far from his home in Sandbanks.
Redknapp is far craftier and more intelligent than some give him credit for and is almost always speaking with an ulterior purpose in mind. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that his team selection at the weekend was done to loosen a few purse strings in the Loftus Road boardroom. Post-West Ham draw Redknapp had bemoaned the speed at which QPR were conducting their transfer business – something he believes has cost them the services of Joe Cole and Yann M’Vila – and by following that up with a conveniently timed horror show to highlight the lack of depth in the squad it might mean the Air Asia company credit card is coming out to play again on deadline day this week.
I’m not sure I buy into that entirely but there was certainly no reason to leave Ryan Nelsen out at the weekend, given that he’s leaving this week anyway. The cloud of conceding four times in a variety of cataclysmically dreadful ways to a team from League One with Anton Ferdinand and Tal Ben Haim at centre back certainly has a thick silver lining to it. Any bid for Chris Samba or whatever other centre half Redknapp may target this week will come with added incentive for the board of not seeing that pairing again against a Premier League strike force. Redknapp said at the weekend that it confirmed what he already knew about players who had been knocking on his door asking to play – he barely stopped short of saying that it showed the board exactly what he’s up against without reinforcements.
I must say, being a football manager looks like a hellish job at times, but I’d dearly love to have been the boss when Anton Ferdinand came and knocked on the door asking why he wasn’t in the team. What a lucky boy he is to have that surname – if he was called anything else he’d be on the bench at Barnet.
I also smiled at Redknapp’s comments on Monday prior to this game with Man City about agents engaging in gang warfare against each other, scuppering his deals. Really Harry? Even in this transfer window Peter Odemwingie has shown an unbelievable desire to leave European-chasing West Brom to come to London and play for bottom of the table QPR to the point where he’s probably going to struggle to play for Albion again, given his various transfer requests and personal statements over the past fortnight. Presumably Odemwingie thinks he’ll look good in hoops? Or perhaps some evil agent or other has ascertained exactly what his salary and signing on fee would be should he come to Loftus Road and let him know.
Again, it strikes me that Redknapp is just trying to hurry things along slightly with the deadline fast approaching and the broken fax machine presumably left back at Spurs in the hands of Daniel Levy, rather than any genuine concern about agents taking over the world. He’s never seemed that concerned about dealing with the likes of Willie McKay before.
But who can blame Harry for trying every trick he knows given the circumstances he finds himself in? About this time a year ago QPR, under the new management of Mark Hughes, went up to Blackburn for a relegation six pointer and found themselves three nil down at half time. Hughes looked stunned, and admitted he was caught by surprise by the performance after the game. Once or twice since he arrived – including Saturday – Redknapp has also looked and sounded amazed by just how bad things are with this QPR team. I’ve rarely known a side that can look for a few weeks like it’s getting somewhere, and then collapse quite as spectacularly and quite as often as Rangers have done over the past 18 months. I suspect Redknapp expected a few wins initially as part of his new manager bounce, a clutch of January transfer window signings to add to the momentum, and then away we’d go, and he’s probably been surprised at just how deeply ingrained the problems are here – although he persistently says he came in with eyes wide open and hasn’t been shocked.
Tuesday looks like a hiding to nothing but QPR have tended to fare better – in performances if not results – in games against the likes of City, Chelsea and Spurs where the opposition do the attacking and QPR can try and soak it up and counter. It would be miraculous if the R’s could win this one, but they need a few footballing miracles between now and May to stay in the league so may as well start praying for one now.
Team News: Harry Redknapp made nine changes for the weekend defeat at home to MK Dons but it’s fair to say few of the fringe players pressed their case for inclusion too strongly so expect a similar number of swaps back in the opposite direction for this game. Shaun Wright-Phillips is a doubt with an ankle injury and Junior Hoilett remains troubled by a hamstring. Redknapp hinted at the weekend that he also had doubts about the fitness of strikers Adel Taarabt and Loic Remy who would both be massive misses for the beleaguered Super Hoops if they’re unable to play. Bobby Zamora, who made a substitute come back from injury at the weekend, is still restricted to 20 minute run outs. Andy Johnson is a long term absentee, Samba Diakite is at the African Cup of Nations.
City are without Yaya Toure for the same reason – his Ivory Coast side have progressed keeping him away for another few days at least. Vincent Kompany limped out of the weekend FA Cup win at Stoke with what looked like a calf injury so he is a doubt. If fellow centre back Matija Nastasic is also ruled out with a knee problem it leaves Roberto Mancini facing something of a headache at centre half. Samir Nasri is back after illness but it remains to be seen whether Mario Balotelli features with moves to either Juventus or Milan apparently in the offing.
Elsewhere: The second of two midweek rounds of fixtures in the Premier league is split over two nights with the majority taking place on Wednesday. The big game on Tuesday, for QPR and the neutral, is at Villa Park where two big clubs who find themselves at the wrong end of the table are preparing to embroil themselves in a real six pointer. Aston Villa’s focus on youth and lower league players is commendable, but the bottom has fallen out of their world since a 3-1 win at Liverpool pre-Christmas and they’re now in real relegation trouble. Newcastle are too, unable to get anywhere near the standards they set last season and now turning to bulk buying from Ligue One to get themselves out of trouble. The two sides meet on Tuesday night in what’s sure to be a tense and nervous affair.
Wigan, another team struggling down the bottom, head to out of form Stoke while Sunderland who appear to be climbing away from trouble host League Cup finalists Swansea.
On Wednesday it’s all eyes back to the top where Man Utd should capitalise on any slip by City at Loftus Road when they play Southampton at Old Trafford. Of more intrigue though are tough away games for two of the chasing pack – Tottenham go to Norwich and Chelsea are at Reading following poor weekend results in the cup and, in Chelsea’s case, a apparent slow implosion of the whole club. Fulham host West Ham and Everton play West Brom in the other games while Arsenal v Liverpool is, allegedly, the game of the evening.
Referee: QPR will do well to make this match competitive enough for the referee to have any influence but if they do, then the man in the middle is Phil Dowd. He’s never been overly kind to Rangers through the years – I still remember him disallowing two perfectly good Martin Rowlands goals in a 1-0 defeat at Leicester many moons ago – and so far this season the R’s have lost at Spurs and drawn at Wigan under his charge. On his last visit to Loftus Road he sent off Samba Diakite on his debut against Fulham, although given the circumstances you could hardly blame the referee for that one. Click here for his full case file.
QPR: QPR have given a decent account of themselves in all three matches against City since returning to the Premier League, but have nevertheless lost on every occasion and conceded three goals in each game. Prior to the weekend defeat by MK Dons the R’s were unbeaten in five but that shattering defeat means they haven’t moved into the fifth round of the FA Cup since 1997. The stats would suggest that Man City have the game sewn up if they score first – given that Rangers are yet to recover a victory from a losing position this season with four draws and 12 defeats so far. The last time QPR beat City was a 1-0 win sealed by a Simon Barker goal in 1995 – but it wasn’t enough to save the R’s from a Premier League relegation that season.
Man City: City came into this fixture last season on a run of five straight league victories in which they scored 19 goals. They’ve won their last six prior to this year’s meeting, but it’s the defence that has been more impressive on this occasion and if QPR do score on Tuesday they’ll be the first team to breach City’s backline in five matches. In addition to the statistic about QPR not recovering a losing position this season, City are yet to lose when they’ve opened the scoring this year – won 12, drawn one. Don’t concede first QPR!
Prediction: Well my good run of cup predictions came to a shuddering halt at the weekend when I said QPR would win 1-0 and they lost 4-2. Thankfully, reigning Prediction league champion Nathan McAllister returns for this midweek round of games with his thoughts…
“Humiliating as it was, I don’t think Rangers FA Cup exit to MK Dons on Saturday was the catastrophe many fans seem to think it was. Now maybe I would be feeling differently if I’d had to sit through the whole 90 minutes – I only saw the highlights - but if the two key offside decisions had been called the other way as they perhaps should have, a 4-2 defeat would have been a 3-3 draw. That doesn’t seem so bad when you consider what else happened this weekend. OK, by all accounts a defeat was no more than sorry Rangers deserved, but it was basically a team packed with fringe squad players most of whom were low on confidence and/or match sharpness. I’ll be very surprised to see more than two players from Saturday’s game take to the field against Manchester City, so you would hope that the FA Cup debacle won’t be as detrimental to team morale as it otherwise would have.
“This is also not the worst time to be playing Manchester City, who have been less impressive this season in defending their Premier League title than they were last season in winning it. Last season they had scored 60 goals up to this point, compared with ‘just’ 45 this time around. City will be without two absolutely key players on Tuesday night in Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany. In addition, Harry Redknapp made nine changes for the cup this weekend while his opposite number Roberto Mancini made only three – and one of those changes was in goal. The QPR starting 11 ought to be the fresher of the two, and that along with home advantage will hopefully go some way to bridging the chasm in quality between the two sides.
“If anyone actually reads these predictions regularly and is worrying that I am about to scupper Rangers’ chances by predicting a positive result, fear not. I’ll be amazed if Rangers manage a third successive clean sheet against a top four team. If they concede early and have to come out of their defensive shell we may see another ‘Liverpool’ on our hands. QPR’s sole attacking strategy at the moment seems to be based on getting the ball to Adel Taarabt as often as possible and hoping he can produce something special on the rare occasions they find themselves in the opposition half. This makes Rangers very predictable to play against and probably explains why they have scored just three goals in their last 6 Premier League matches. This will in all likelihood be a comfortable win for City but, as this weekend has highlighted yet again, the beauty of football is it’s unpredictably, and with this ridiculous football club you never know …”
Prediction: QPR 0 Man City 2
Pictures – Action Images