Newcastle V QPR
Sunday, 15 January 2012 – 13:30 GMT (LIVE on Sky Sports 1)
English Premier League
He was a favourite amongst the fans, but that counted for very little when the QPR board got together, after last week’s disappointing 1-1 draw with MK Dons in the FA Cup, and decided enough was enough, sacking the enigmatic 63-year-old.
Their decision was a valid one however, as Warnock – whom saved the club from Championship relegation in 2009/10 before leading them to promotion the following season – leaves the West London outfit third from bottom in the Premier League and without a win in nine in all competitions.
Warnock’s replacement is the former Blackburn, Fulham and Man City tactician Mark Hughes, who has been out of management for the past seven months since departing QPR’s West London neighbours Fulham last summer. The Welshman cited a lack of ambition as to the reason why he quit the Cottagers, and he has cited the complete opposite as to why he couldn’t resist the Loftus Road post.
The opportunity to build a club from the bottom up, to establish a lasting legacy, all of his own-doing, like his former mentor has at Manchester United, was too good to miss, according to Hughes. The 48-year-old plans to remain at the helm for many years to come – which is some claim when you consider he’s the fourteenth managerial appointment at the club in the last six years, but that might only the case if Rangers stay up.
With a gruelling end-of-season schedule, it’s vitally important Hughes hits the ground running if Rangers are to chalk up enough points to avoid having to go to places like Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd in the final few weeks of the season – which they do have to – and earn a result. His tenure starts with Newcastle away before a must-win clash with Wigan at home; both are winnable.
Negotiating Newcastle at St James’ Park is by no means easy, mind. The Magpies have been outstanding this season – without doubt the strongest team outside of the well-known top-six – and have only lost twice at home all season, but Alan Pardew is missing several hugely influential figures who would have made the hosts an entirely different proposition.
Whether it be the combative Chieck Tiote or goalmachine Demba Ba, Newcastle are missing top-quality players; two of their most consistent performers. Filling their voids is impossible in my opinion, so it will be a case of plugging away in their absence. Can they do that? They shown they can by beating Blackburn in the FA Cup. It was anything but convincing, but the fact they managed to ground out the victory speaks volumes; that their sheer desire and industry should compensate for their temporary losses.
Mark Hughes and Rangers are also up against a side who last time out on Tyneside thumped reigning Premier League champions Manchester United 3-0. In fact, Newcastle have only lost two of ten at home this season (W5 D3 L2), although their win over United was their first in four on home soil.
Perhaps their sprightly start has come back to haunt them. Whatever it is, Newcastle aren’t quite the same force now that they were from August right through to November, when they went eleven unbeaten in the league and at one stage were third in the table. This is why I believe QPR will take something from this game, because the euphoria and buzz of Hughes’ appointment should spark this dormant team he has inherited into life and combine nicely with the hosts’ personnel issues and lack of consistency.
The perfect start would appear a long shot, however. Hughes is expected to make a raft of signings this month, but in the meantime he will have to make do with a threadbare squad, one that won’t boast midfield maestro Joey Barton (suspended), or Armand Troare and Adel Taarabt (African Cup of Nations duty), for Sunday’s game.
There wasn’t a single goal when these two met at Loftus Road back in September, although it was far from a dull affair. QPR bossed it, in all fairness, and created enough chances to register all three points. A repeat performance would see them go close second time round.
However, Newcastle missing their top scorer; QPR shorn of several of their more creative talents; it all spells out another low-scoring contest for me, with another goalless one not a bad shout at 11/1 (SportingBet).
My Recommendation: Draw @ 13/5 Bet365
Value Punt: 0-0 Draw (Correct Score) @ 11/1 SportingBet