Premier League | Loftus Road | Sun 19 Oct | 1:30pm
Will Raheem Sterling wake up in time?
- West Ham 2-0 QPR (Prem)
- So’ton 2-1 QPR (Prem)
- QPR 2-2 Stoke (Prem)
- Man Utd 4-0 QPR (Prem)
- QPR 1-0 S’land (Prem)
- Liverpool 2-1 WBA (Prem)
- Basel 1-0 Liverpool (CL)
- Liverpool 1-1 Everton (Prem)
- Liverpool p2-2 M’brough (LC)
- West Ham 3-1 Liverpool (Prem)
Come Sunday everyone will be scanning the teamsheet looking for Sterling’s name. If he starts, fans, pundits and the England manager will be asking why he was too tired to represent his country against Estonia, but he’s ready to pull on the shirt of his paymasters?
Rodgers says quick players need two days' recovery; Hodgson says that’s cobblers. Liverpool fans say their teenage sensation must rest to avoid burnout. Twitter trolls and radio phone-in cretins claim Sterling’s hefty wage packet should make him impervious to fatigue. Pros and ex-pros have backed the player, saying he’s right to listen to his body. The player himself is just sorry for being human.
In reality, we’re not sports scientists and the size of Sterling’s wages are completely irrelevant. He’s a professional athlete at the age of 19 and like any normal human he gets tired – that’s life. To avoid injury he has to be managed properly. Whether Sterling is experiencing fatigue, laziness or he’s become a pawn in a battle between club and country, we don’t know. What we do know is Harry Redknapp will be hoping the former QPR scholar is not at his best on Sunday.
The Hoops sit at the foot of the table, with just four points from a possible 21 after losing five of their opening seven games.
Unsurprisingly Redknapp’s team have the worst goal difference in the league, having conceded 15 and scored just four. The prospect of playing Liverpool, with goal-machine Luis Suarez in tow, would have given QPR’s back four sleepless nights, but the new-look Reds are unrecognisable from last season's title challengers.
By this point last season Liverpool were second in the league with 16 points, having scored 11 and conceded five. Seven games into this campaign and Rodgers’ team are ninth, with 10 points and a goal difference of zero having shipped as many as they’ve netted (10).
Both teams need a fillip to their season; neither are in good form. Sterling has been in the spotlight all week. The ending to this script has already been written.
Redknapp will be knocking on the physio’s door asking if Joey Barton will be fit for Sunday’s game. The midfielder will need to disrupt Liverpool’s counter-attacking play and help keep possession for his team.
After returning to training last week, Daniel Sturridge could be back for the Merseysiders. German under-21 international Emre Can and Welsh midfielder Joe Allen are also targeting a return to first-team action, while Dejan Lovren could be in contention after suffering an abdominal injury on international duty.
Player to watch: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
As the powers of club captain and legend Steven Gerrard start to wane, the importance of Henderson’s high-energy performances increase. An unexpected signing by former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish in June 2011, the England midfielder made a slow start to his career at Anfield, but under Rodgers he is flourishing – taking control of the Reds’ engine room.
He’s been made vice-captain, with an eye to him wearing the armband when Gerrard retires. He certainly has the right attitude, recently telling LFC TV: “At Liverpool the pressure is on every moment of every single game. You can’t hide. But I love all of that.”
And he rose to the occasion against West Brom. With the side coming off the back of a defeat to Basel in the Champions League, Liverpool needed their big characters to step up and deliver. Henderson set up Adam Lallana with a delicious backheel and then stroked home the winner to earn Liverpool a vital three points.
He completed 19 passes in the attacking third – bettered only by Gerrard. Four of these exchanges led to efforts on goal. He wasn’t just effective in the opposition’s half; he covered a lot of ground, dropping back to pick up possession and drive the team forward. QPR’s midfield will need to find another gear if they want to keep up with the ubiquitous 24-year-old.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- L'pool 1-0 QPR (PL, May 13)
- QPR 0-3 L'pool (PL, Dec 12)
- QPR 3-2 L'pool (PL, Mar 12)
- L'pool 1-0 QPR (PL, Dec 11)
- QPR 1-2 L'pool (PL, Feb 96)
Forget the barney Hodgson and Rodgers have been having – the Liverpool manager needs to get his team focused on Sunday’s game because, by his own admission, they aren't at their “footballing best”. He praised his side’s character after their 2-1 win over West Brom and believes the squad is on course for a clean bill of health and a good run of form. “As we work more together the quality of our game will improve and the performance will improve but you have to find a way to win and we did that [against West Brom],” he said. “Once we get all the players back and we can rotate the squad a bit better.”
After a miserable start to the season and reluctance to commit his future to QPR, Redknapp’s position at Loftus Road is under increasing threat. Newspaper chatter suggests Tim Sherwood is being lined up as a potential replacement for the current gaffer. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better for Redknapp. Three of QPR’s next four games are against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City.
But the former West Ham, Portsmouth and Tottenham manager hasn’t give up just yet. “There's a lot of teams down there - one win changes everything. You have to keep going. It's early days,” he said after his side lost 2-0 to West Ham. “We have to find a way of playing that suits everybody and get the best out of what we've got.”
Facts and figures
- QPR have picked up the fewest yellow cards (8) and have committed the fewest fouls (60) in the Premier League so far this season.
- Liverpool have scored in 14 of their last 15 Premier League away trips to London.
- Rob Green has been forced in to making more saves than any other goalkeeper this season in the Premier League (26).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
QPR’s defence won’t be able to cope with Liverpool’s firepower, no matter if they’re misfiring right now. 0-3.