Manchester City-Queens Park Rangers Preview
LONDON (SE) - Two squads in decisively different frames of mind meet Tuesday at Loftus Road, where Manchester City seek three vital away points while chasing their front-running archrivals at the expense of Queens Park Rangers, who continue their season-long struggle to avoid the drop.
Manchester City (15-6-2) enter this match five points behind Manchester United as they attempt to repeat as Premier League champions. Roberto Mancini's team is displaying its finest form of the season in league play with four wins on the bounce - the last three coming by shutout. After disposing of Fulham 2-0 in their last league match Jan. 19, City extended their winning streak in all competitions to six with a 1-0 FA Cup win at Stoke City on Saturday when Argentina defender Pablo Zabaleta scored in the 85th minute.
"We won the FA Cup two years ago and we want to win it again, but now we will focus on Tuesday night and QPR because we want to keep winning and hopefully catch Man United," Zabaleta told the team's official website
Zabaleta will have to be the anchor of Man City's defence with Vincent Kompany already ruled out of this contest due to a calf injury suffered in the first half of the victory. Midfielder Javi Garcia proved to be an adequate fourth on the backline following Kompany's departure as City changed shape, which may allow Gael Clichy to range forward from the left side.
City have not allowed a goal in all competitions over 465 minutes dating back to Russell Martin's goal for Norwich City in the 75th minute of a 4-3 victory Dec. 29. Their 285-minute shutout streak in league play is second-longest this season to a 372-minute spell from Nov. 11-Dec. 1.
On offence, Edin Dzeko likely will be the target of Man City's focus. The striker has scored goals in all three Premiership matches City have played against Queens Park Rangers (2-9-12), including the match-winner in the reverse fixture on Sept. 1. Dzeko snapped a 1-1 tie in the 61st minute and assisted on a stoppage-time goal by Carlos Tevez to secure the three points.
While City are riding high into Loftus Road, a dark cloud seems to have appeared over Rangers manager Harry Redknapp. QPR were overrun 4-2 at home by MK Dons in their fourth-round FA Cup match on Saturday, conceding the match's first four goals before Jay Bothroyd and Fabio scored in the final seven minutes to create a respectable scoreline.
The defeat went completely against QPR's form in recent weeks, having gone unbeaten their previous five matches (2-3-0) in all competitions - highlighted by a 1-0 win at Chelsea to start the new year. In last place in the table and five points behind Aston Villa for safety, Redknapp saw all his side's weaknesses laid bare by their League One opponents.
"Today answered a lot of questions. I already knew the answers to those questions but for some it confirmed it," he said to the team's official website. "I've said that all along, that we're not strong enough. This is what we have.
"The players had the opportunity to show me that they should be in the team and I'm afraid not too many of them proved they should be."
City have scored nine goals in their three league wins over QPR, including a 3-2 triumph at Loftus Road last season in which Dzeko had a goal and an assist before Yaya Toure - currently with Ivory Coast for the African Cup of Nations tournament along with his brother and Man City teammate Kolo - snapped a 2-2 tie in the 74th minute.