Aston Villa-Queens Park Rangers Preview
While a victory over Aston Villa on Saturday won't lift Queens Park Rangers off the bottom of the Premier League, but new boss Harry Redknapp hopes winning at home can be a catalyst for top-flight survival.
The former West Ham and Portsmouth manager will take charge for his first home game since being appointed on November 24th.
Redknapp is well aware his side will have to improve on a return of just three points from six games at Loftus Road if Rangers are to overturn the eight-point deficit that separates them from safety, and Saturday's opponents, who lie just outside the relegation zone in 17th place.
"We need to make Loftus Road a really difficult place to come for away sides," he told the club website. "It reminds me of Fratton Park (Portsmouth). It's a small stadium and the crowd are right on top of you. It's a great place to be when the fans are in full voice. We need to make it a place team's fear coming to and that needs to start on Saturday."
Redknapp wants the backing Rangers (0-5-9) received in their midweek 0-0 draw at Sunderland to carry over to the home matches.
"Our fans that traveled up to Sunderland were fantastic. They were right up the top there but we could hear them throughout. We need everyone in this together if we're going to give it a right good go, but it's down to us to give the fans something to really shout about."
Villa (3-4-7) manager Paul Lambert, whose side beat Reading 1-0 in midweek, is determined to not let his side be ambushed by any feel-good factor generated by QPR's change of leadership.
"We go into the game with plenty of optimism but it will be a different game to the Reading match," he told the club website. "QPR have a new manager in place and it will be a really tough game. Everyone knows how good a manager Harry is and he can really get players going. The squad QPR have too is incredible. But we will go down with plenty of confidence which is great.
"Harry will have his players fired up but we can feed off the atmosphere too. They will do. The onus is on the home team to make the running and that's when you can maybe pick holes. But we go down there with confidence and we will try to win."
Despite these sides possessing proven attacking talents including Djibril Cisse, Gabby Agbonlahor and Darren Bent, those expecting an offensive explosion might be in for a disappointment. Villa have not conceded a goal for 196 minutes and posted clean sheets in consecutive league matches for the first time since April 2010. It is 108 minutes since QPR last allowed a goal.
The recurring absence of Bent, now rumored to be a winter transfer target of QPR, is the cause of much controversy around Villa Park, but Lambert has persisted with Christian Benteke. Villa's most expensive player has not been part of the Premier League matchday since October.
Rangers lead the overall series between the sides with 22 wins to Villa's 17 and there have been 11 draws in the 50 previous meetings. Due somewhat to the home side's constant shuffle between the Premier League and the Championship, visitors Villa have not won at Loftus Road for 21 years. In that span QPR have won three and drawn two in Shepherd's Bush.
Both of last season's meetings ended in draws. Barry Bannan gave Villa the lead at Loftus Road before a Richard Dunne own goal denied them full points. Another own goal, from Stephen Warnock, in the return game gave Rangers a 2-0 lead after Cisse had scored early but goals from Bent and Charles N'Zogbia rescued a point for Villa.