Premier League | Loftus Road | Sat 8 Nov | 5:30pm
Austin vs Aguero.
- Chelsea 2-1 QPR (Prem)
- QPR 2-0 Villa (Prem)
- QPR 2-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- West Ham 2-0 QPR (Prem)
- So’ton 2-1 QPR (Prem)
MAN CITY FORM
- Man City 1-2 CSKA (CL)
- Man City 1-0 Man Utd (Prem)
- Man City 0-2 Newcastle (LC)
- West Ham 2-1 Man City (Prem)
- CSKA 2-2 Man City (CL)
Manchester City and the Champions League haven't been a great fit; their fans frustrated by under-par performances, irked about UEFA’s seeding system and ‘singling out’ over Financial Fair Play, and incensed over supporters' exclusion in Russia when it was CSKA Moscow fans ordered to stay away, only for 300 'guests' to be let in.
And after Wednesday’s ill-disciplined home defeat to CSKA – which began with the booing of UEFA’s pre-match anthem and ended with City staring at another early elimination – getting back down to the bread and butter of chasing down Chelsea can’t come soon enough.
Winning their second Premier League title in three years was "just the beginning" as captain Vincent Kompany told FFT in May. But there are signs it could become a case of déjà vu when the meek defence of their 2011/12 crown saw City finish 11 points off the pace.
While Manuel Pellegrini's appointment was initially seen as a refreshing change to Roberto Mancini's rather militarian approach to his players, the affable Chilean is now apparently 'not tough enough' with the Blues blowing a two-goal lead in Moscow and failing to turn around losing positions in three subsequent setbacks.
There’s oodles of time left, of course, and Sunday’s nervy derby win over United was supposed to kick-start the Blues after back-to-back beatings by West Ham and Newcastle.
But after another disappointing home display in Europe, Saturday evening’s clash at QPR – similar to the one at Aston Villa a month ago – takes on added importance going into an international break.
City are unbeaten in five games against Rangers, winning four, but drew a blank on their last visit to Loftus Road in January 2013 and face an R’s side with their tails up. A battling victory against Villa was followed by a spirited performance at Stamford Bridge, where Charlie Austin made it three goals in two games.
The former Poole, Swindon and Burnley talisman has now notched 24 times since the start of last season, 18 more than anyone else, and 'can become an England international' according to Harry Redknapp. "Charlie's improving and if he keeps scoring goals there no reason why he can't in the future," he said.
"He appreciates being a Premier League player. He thinks back probably to when he was up at five or six [in the morning] laying bricks through the winter - on a building site or whatever. This is fantastic for him, maybe we should put a few more on the building sites in the morning. I don't think it would do them any harm."
Austin will go head-to-head with another in-form frontman in Sergio Aguero, the Argentine bagging 11 goals in his last 12 league games, although only one in his last four appearances in all competitions.
There have been five red cards in the last eight Premier League meetings between City and QPR, the list of dismissals including Danny Dichio, Andy Impey and Nigel Quashie. With both Fernandinho and Yaya Toure sent for early baths in midweek, Pellegrini will need his men to keep their cool come 5:30pm.
Joey Barton, Jordon Mutch and Nedum Onouha are all hoping hamstring problems are fixed in time to play. Watching on the sidelines will be Alex McCarthy (thigh), Alejandro Faurlin (ACL) and Rio Ferdinand (Twitter).
For City, David Silva (knee) is out, although the Blues have not lost any of the last eight Premier League games the Spaniard has missed, winning six. He is joined in the treatment room by Aleksandar Kolarov and, crucially, captain Kompany (calf). Frank Lampard is expected to return to action.
Player to watch: Mauricio Isla (QPR)
The Chile international has had to deny he is seeking a premature end to his loan spell from Juventus, and Redknapp would be loathed to let him return to Italy right now having stood out for the west Londoners since dropping back into a more defensive right-sided role in a flat back four.
Isla led the way in helping keep Villa at arm’s length in QPR’s second success of the season, making a game-high 13 ball recoveries, 5/5 tackles and 5 interceptions. And the prospect of facing Eden Hazard did not faze the former Udinese man. Isla won more tackles than anyone else (8/12) on top of making 3 interceptions.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- QPR 0-0 City (PL, Jan 13)
- City 3-1 QPR (PL, Sep 12)
- City 3-2 QPR (PL, May 12)
- QPR 2-3 City (PL, Nov 11)
- QPR 0-3 City (LC, Oct 03)
Pellegrini claimed his side were suffering a “crisis of confidence” after slumping to a third defeat in four matches on Wednesday evening. “We must find out why by talking to the players every day,” he said. “These players are important players so I don’t understand why they cannot play in the Champions League.” Redknapp will be hoping City fail to find a solution before the weekend. Writing in his Sun column a year ago, the R’s boss claimed Pellegrini “would have to be a fool not to do well at City”. “Everything’s in place,” Harry said. “A brilliant squad, superb training facilities and stadium and an open cheque book to sign the world’s best players. How can it not go well for you?” Er...
Facts and figures
- Edin Dzeko has scored in 3 of his 4 Premier League appearances against QPR.
- Defeat at West Ham ended a run of 17 games where Man City lost just 1 and won 12 (D4).
- Richard Dunne has scored a record 10 Premier League own goals. 6 of them came playing for Man City.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Rangers put up a fight, particularly in Kompany's absence, but Aguero delivers the knockout blow. 0-2.
Back 0-2 at 15/2 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication