Stoke City-Queens Park Rangers Preview
Queens Park Rangers are on the spot this weekend when they try to right themselves at home Saturday versus Stoke City.
Any good feelings that came from their 1-0 victory over Sunderland heading into the international break were quickly erased coming out of the sojourn after a 4-0 thrashing by previously winless Manchester United at Old Trafford last Sunday.
It was the second 4-0 thrashing the Rangers (1-0-3) absorbed in the young season - the other coming at Tottenham Hotspur on Aug. 24 - and with only one goal through four matches heading into this clash against former manager Mark Hughes, current Hoops boss Harry Redknapp is keen on his players putting forth their best effort at Loftus Road.
"At Spurs and United, we weren't hard (to beat)," midfielder Leroy Fer told the team's official website. "At home we have been. At home, you play in front of mostly your own fans - the boost is much bigger. But that's no excuse. I think the most important thing for me and the team is getting three more points - nothing else.
"We've got to keep winning our home games, and if we do that, I think we'll be all right."
Rangers have been more aggressive on their patch, taking 37 shots compared to only 18 in their road defeats. Redknapp is still trying to sort out his attacking options following the departure of Loic Remy to Chelsea, with forward Charlie Austin and midfielder Matt Phillips shouldering much of the responsibility.
There may be more depth in the midfield as both Joey Barton and Jordon Mutch are trying to be match-fit after missing last weekend's loss through injury. Redknapp is also hoping for better things out of Sandro and Eduardo Vargas after both made their season debuts at Old Trafford following their arrivals from Spurs and Napoli, respectively.
Stoke City (1-1-2) also sputtered coming out of the international break, losing 1-0 at home to Leicester City last Saturday for their second defeat in as many matches at the Britannia Stadium. While Hughes' side has shown itself a competent outfit on defence - conceding only three goals thus far - the offence remains inconsistent as the Potters have found the back of the net just twice through 360 minutes.
"There were a number of times (Saturday) where the ball was bouncing around in the box and not once did it really fall for us, so that is frustrating," Hughes told the team's official website.
This will be the first top-flight match for Hughes at Loftus Road since his dismissal from the London team in November 2012 after Rangers claimed only four points from their first 12 matches en route to being relegated.
"It was a difficult time for me," Hughes admitted in Thursday's news conference, recalling a team that never meshed after a splashy display in the transfer window. "It was frustrating, and I will be honest and say that the record in the second season wasn't anywhere good enough."
Forward Jonathan Walters is struggling to deal with a knock and is questionable for this match, but midfielder Stephen Ireland may be in line to return as he continues to progress from a rib strain.
Stoke City swept the 2012-13 series the last time the teams were in the top flight, winning 1-0 at the Britannia and 2-0 in London. Lanky striker Peter Crouch has a goal and three assists in four career matches versus Queens Park Rangers.