|Bristol City 2 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 27th January 2018 Kick-off 15:00
QPR hope to profit from any City cup hangover - Preview
Friday, 26th Jan 2018 21:00 by Clive Whittingham
For the second time this season QPR face a high-flying Bristol City side straight after Lee Johnson's side has endured a midweek cup roller coaster against one of the Manchester giants.
Bristol City (13-9-6, LLLLDL, 5th) v QPR (8-9-11, DLWLWL, 16th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday January 27, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Cold, windy and wet again >>> Ashton Gate, Bristol
Christmas out of the way, cup interests ended typically early and abysmally, QPR are down the back straight and approaching the final sweeping corner of the 2017/18 season. Certainly not one that will have them clamouring for the season review DVD in the clubshop (do they still do those? DVDs I mean, not club shops) but also not quite as bad, nor as boring, as some are making out.
Expectations were as low as they’d been for years at the start of the season, with a dire 2016/17 fresh in the memory. For most they didn’t stretch much further than “hope we stay up”, although I do afford myself a wry smile that it’s those who said they would “snap your arm off” for sixteenth last August who are bitching and moaning the most and the loudest with QPR sitting sixteenth and so far never closer to the bottom three than the six points that briefly separated us from it prior to the Burton win.
Staying up was certainly the primary objective for this season on the pitch and Rangers are on course to do that. Assuming 52 points will be the high water mark again Rangers need 19 more points, which is five wins and a handful of draws from the final 18 matches. A meagre ask, one we should be well capable of, though you’d think we’ll be relying on the home matches with Barnsley, Bolton, Sunderland, Sheff Wed, Birmingham and Norwich for the majority of the wins. Even if QPR weren’t utterly embarrassing away from home, remaining trips to Wolves, Sheff Utd, Villa, Fulham, Brentford and Leeds look tough. If points are to come away you’d think it’ll be at Reading and Hull, though of course these things are never predictable and QPR could easily lose both of those and win at Wolves and Villa – the sort of nonsense we’ve been doing for 130-odd years.
Where exactly tomorrow’s game at Bristol City fits will only become clear when it starts. On the face of it, a good time to catch them, straight after another gruelling 12 rounds with Manchester City during the week. City have to recover mentally and physically from that, and pick themselves up for the most run of the mill run of the mill league game possible just days after they ran the champions elect close in front of a crackling full house. They’ve won only one of six games following League Cup ties this season and have been on a run of seven without a win since the end of 2017.
But then Charity Park Rangers love rolling over for a team on a seven match losing run don’t they? And we said all of these hopeful things before the first meeting between the sides this season back in December when they came to Loftus Road just days after beating Man Utd in the last minute – that day it was City who finished a game they were supposed to be tired for much the stronger, laying siege to the QPR goal in the final half hour, though only scoring their eventual equaliser from a controversial penalty. As we've said before, a team reaching the League Cup quarter final has also won promotion from the Championship in the last four seasons - these hangovers aren't as stong as they're made out to be.
We shall see. I wouldn’t be surprised if we scraped another draw. Though you’d be foolish to back QPR for a win (just two away from home this season, at Burton and Birmingham), or a clean sheet (just four to this point, the fewest in the league).
The other objective for the season was to reduce the massively oversized squad, and continue to hack into the wage bill. Firstly, because it’s ridiculous to have in excess of 30 senior pros on your books as a Championship club of QPR’s size – Rangers have got rid of seven this month if you count Kazenga LuaLua and it’s barely even nibbled into their bench. Secondly, because despite the good work that’s been done on this front we will not continue to comply with the FFP regulations on declining parachute payments with so many senior salaries being paid. And thirdly, because we want to be in a position this summer (when a dozen players are out of contract) to be able to trade and make a few more Freeman and Scowen-type signings for our last season of parachute payment next year in the hope that we can push up the league and not permanently become some sort of footballing counting house, bacon slicing our outgoings and aiming for nothing more than 52 points every season.
The latest thrown overboard in these efforts is Ariel Borysiuk, a player who – bar the odd cleanly struck 30-yarder – never really looked up to it. This is disappointing for a number of reasons. Mainly because QPR have to do this far too often, paying senior players up or just having them kick around the place doing nothing while earning money until their contract runs out. Caulker, Wright-Phillips, Young, Traore, Emmanuel Thomas, Henry… many more besides. For it still to be happening, with a player signed just 18 months ago under this director of football and this CEO, under the more sensible and straightened times, when we’re promised we’re doing the scouting and the due diligence and signing better prospects with sell on value… it doesn’t bode well.
If it’s just a case of one that didn’t work out, fair enough. They’re not going to when you’re taking chances on players from dark corners of European football or the lower leagues in this country – Massimo Luongo has worked, Ben Gladwin did not. If the sudden release of a clutch of first team players and under 23s, with no money coming our way and presumably decent pay offs going theirs, is simply biting the bullet on an over-sized squad then, again, fair enough, and not before time.
But if this sudden tossing overboard of anything not nailed down to the deck is because we’re perilously close (or worse) to breaching the FFP regulations all over again, despite the sacrifices made, the parachute payments received, the transfer fees received and the decline in results stemming from the relative hardship it’s forced on us… well then some serious questions must be asked. QPR have still been signing players for and on reasonable money without any real idea of how they play to fit them into the team and use them – Wheeler, Samuel, Goss, Borysiuk, LuaLua.
We’ll only find out if we’re cleaning house, or whether it’s actually on fire again, in time – with the next set of accounts covering 2016/17 and the set after that for this season on which our FFP will be judged. We’ll know whether objective one has been fulfilled a good deal sooner than that, no more than 18 games’ time, starting tomorrow at Ashton Gate.
An own goal from Aden Flint gave QPR the lead in the first meeting between these sides this season before a controversial late penalty brought City a deserved equaliser.
Team News: Grant Hall now has a problem with his other knee after missing most of 2017 with tendinitis. Paul Smyth continues to be troubled by a thigh issue which must be frustrating for him so soon after making his first team breakthrough. Idrissa Sylla has managed to tie his neck into a full bow and is out for several weeks. James Perch and Jordan Cousins are in the travelling party though.
Bristol City have signed striker Lois Diony on loan from St Etienne and he’s pushing for a start along with Famara Diedhiou who arrived for reasonably big money from the other side of the Channel over the summer but has struggled for starts due to the form of Bobby Reid. Goalkeeper Frank Fielding (frayed fringe) is out and Luke Steele will continue to deputise.
Elsewhere: We all end up dead, it’s just a question of how and why. Every man dies, not every man really lives. I see four fixtures here, here in defiance of tyranny. You’ve come to fight as free men… and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight? Fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell the FA Cup that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… all of the Championship fixtures from the weekend calendar.
And then everybody cheers as Brentford host Borussia Norwich, Barnsley play at home against Tarquin and Rupert, and Ipswich Blue Sox face Sporting Wolverhampton.
Referee: Keith Stroud seems to get to more QPR games than I do over the past couple of years, and he’s here again this weekend – albeit on the back of a rare good performance with us at Millwall over New Year. Extensive case history and statistics here.
Bristol City: Last time these sides met City had won five in a row including a cup quarter final against Man Utd a few nights before. It’s the complete opposite this time with six defeats and a draw from the last seven matches and a gallant League Cup exit at the two-legged semi-final stage by Man City. When you consider that two of the seven games were against Pep Guardiola’s team (and Bristol City were exceptional in both), another was at Premier League Watford in the FA Cup, one was a desperately unlucky single goal home defeat to runaway leaders Wolves and they got a draw at high flying Derby the run doesn’t actually sound too bad. Villa are decent, though not 5-0 decent, and a 1-0 loss at home to Norwich is poor but City have been wrestling with injuries to half a dozen first teamers as well as a heavy fixture list. At home in the league this season they’ve won seven, drawn three and lost four with Norwich, Wolves, Leeds and Preston the victorious sides. They’ve won only one of their six games following League Cup games this season, at Sunderland in October after they’d knocked out Palace. They’ve lost to Birmingham and Norwich and drawn with QPR, Norwich and Villa after the others.
QPR: Rangers’ form is all over the place. Three non-consecutive wins, three non-consecutive defeats and two draws over their last eight matches. They have, however, won two and drawn one of their last four away games having failed to win any of the previous ten this season (four draws). The 3-1 win at Burton Albion last time they went on their travels was the first time this season Rangers had scored more than two in a game. Despite two big appeals in last week’s 3-0 home loss to Middlesbrough, the R’s still haven’t had a penalty since the opening day of the season against Reading.
Prediction: The winner of this year’s Prediction League (and the person top at the end of February) will be furnished with goodies from The Art of Football, but if you don’t fancy your chances then you can browse their QPR Collection here and purchase something instead. Our reigning champion Southend_Rsss tells us…
“Short and sharp for me this week. Boro were just too good last week and it was a shame that we upped our game in the second half when it was too little too late. I can see a similar outcome away at Bristol City. They’ll just have too much for us.”
Craig’s Prediction: Bristol City 2-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Bristol City 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Luke Freeman
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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