Take a risk on Rangers
It wasn’t always like this for Mark Hughes. There was a time when votes of confidence were things which happened to other people. In his early posts in charge of Wales and Blackburn he enjoyed relative success by plumbing the underdog spirit. He led unfancied sides to operate at a level greater than the sum of their parts.
It ought to be the drive behind QPR, too. Not one of the London giants, in different circumstances Loftus Road would be an ideal location for the Welshman to emulate those previous triumphs.
But instead, thanks to Tony Fernandes’ millions, Hughes is leading a club with an identity crisis. The players used to life as underdogs – Clint Hill and Shaun Derry – have had their day, leaving an expensively-assembled cast of underperforming individuals.
So why are we siding with the winless West Londoners when they host impressive Everton on Sunday? We reckon it’s time to trust some of that experience when the manager needs it most.
Why now? This is, after all, a side which has shipped 16 goals in seven Premier League matches. In spite of that, there’s enough evidence to suggest that while Rangers’ multinational stars may have no attachment to the blue and white hoops, they do have a semblance of personal pride.
After an embarrassing opening-day collapse against Swansea, they recovered to squeeze out an ugly draw at Norwich and when rivals Chelsea came to town, they were well worth their point in a goalless draw. This weekend, live on Sky Sports and with Hughes’ future in the balance, they have the wherewithal to grind out a performance of a similar ilk.
They are not wet behind the ears. Pressure oughtn’t to be a concern; just as last season they managed five successive home victories to edge to safety in the closing stages of the campaign. And there have been signs of life in recent outings. They dominated West Brom for chunky spells at the Hawthorns a fortnight ago before going down 3-2 while a week earlier they were left counting the cost of Samba Diakite’s ill discipline as they were beaten by West Ham.
Indeed, they led at the break at Tottenham, too, after Bobby Zamora’s first-half effort before conceding twice inside two minutes to leave with nothing.
The defence has been the constant weak spot and that is set to remain the case, with the attacking ranks strengthened at the expense of the back line, but the visitors are a weaker unit in the absence of the terrifically troublesome Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian is likely to miss out again with a knee complaint and while David Moyes has plenty of mobile midfield talent at his disposal, there is no-one quite able to match Fellaini’s totemic threat between the lines.
While the Toffees were supremely efficient in their triumph at Swansea late last month, they haven’t had it all their own way on their travels, losing at West Brom in September and twice going behind at Wigan before eventually claiming a draw three minutes from time.
The Merseysiders remain a slick unit but we’re backing the rock-bottom hosts to rise to the occasion in front of the cameras and finally turn flickers of progress into points. And if you’re willing to side with Hughes’ men, Coral’s 24/5 on QPR to win not to nil may also appeal.
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