Queens Park Rangers: Keys to Victory vs. West Bromwich Albion
Rooted to the bottom of the table and with another international break imminent, Queens Parks Rangers desperately need a win, or at least a result, against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
The bad news? Mark Hughes has faced West Brom eight times in his managerial career, winning just three, and none of those were at The Hawthorns. QPR haven't fared much better themselves—just two victories in their last eight meetings, and again, none in the Midlands.
The good news? Well, anything can happen in football.
So with history, form and the odds all stacked against the West London side, here are five ways they could rock the Baggie boat.
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4-5-1 is my least favorite formation, even on FIFA, but it could be the only way for Hughes to come away from The Hawthorns with at least a point.
The West Brom midfield is chock full of talent; including James Morrison and Zoltan Gera who will be the main men come the weekend. Youssuf Mulumbu packs a heavyweight punch, and new signing Claudio Yacob is proving to be an instant hit for the Baggies. The Midlands' midfield is a class act, and could run riot in enough space, something Rangers cannot afford to give them.
It will be difficult for QPR to take control if they play with any less than five in midfield, and, to be fair, if Hughes could play seven across the center, he probably would.
But then again, that would leave the defense slightly exposed, which in light of recent weeks, probably isn't the best idea.
Don't Play M'Bia at Centre-Back
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Stephane M'Bia showed why he is naturally a midfielder against West Ham. He played too high a line, and seemed to have a magnet in his boots, drawing him up field towards the opposite goal.
Yes, he was charged as CB for much of his time at Marseille, but his defensive partners were more than able to make up for his attacking mindset. Ryan Nelsen and Clint Hill are not quite at the same level as Souleymane Diawara and Nicolas N'Koulou.
There is no doubting M'Bia's quality—however, against the pace of West Brom's wingers and assassin-like quality of their strikers, he could struggle. He would perhaps be more useful as a holding midfielder, rather than a center-back on Saturday.
Give Taarabt Free Reign
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I'm always wary when Adel Taarabt is named in the starting 11 away from home, mainly due to his inability to defend when his team needs him to. But nothing else has worked so far, so what harm could it do? Okay, a lot of harm if West Brom split the Rangers team wide open and pile more misery onto their already-expanding goal difference, but it is worth that risk.
If you don't pigeonhole Taarabt out wide, or in a certain position, Taarabt can do what he does best—control the play, march forward and execute around 367 step-overs per half. Adel can change a game in an instant, but you need to give him free reign. If Hughes does that, then perhaps Rangers can get their first away win in 19 games.
This obviously is all dependent on Hughes giving in and actually handing the Moroccan a start though, and I wouldn't advise anyone to bet on that.
Junior Hoilett over Shaun Wright Phillips
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I know, broken record, but Shaun Wright-Phillips absolutely cannot start for Queens Park Rangers. He simply isn't good enough.
Wright-Phillips will run and run—and run. But when an attacking winger can't consistently deliver a quality ball across the face of goal, hasn't scored in the Premier League since 2010 and is usually beaten when he tries to go one-on-one with a defender, it's time to give his starting position to somebody else.
And that somebody else should be Junior Hoilett. Hoilett performed exceptionally against Reading in the Capital One Cup, and looked a real threat against both Tottenham and West Ham. The Canadian is a real talent: pacy, skillful and has a great strike on him.
If you are looking for a player to be able to move up alongside Bobby Zamora when required, as well as provide service to those in the penalty box, then this young man is that player.
Keep a Handle on Lukaku and Long
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West Brom, in all fairness, have 11 danger men, but the leader of the pack is Shane Long.
The Irishman only scored eight Premier League goals last season, but has started this one off with a bang—two goals in six, an assist, plus a brace in the Capital One Cup. However, Long can be inconsistent, which is usually good news for the traveling team.
Unfortunately, this season there is another striker waiting in the wings, looking for a chance to prove himself.
Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, has scored two in four so far, and is strong, fast and powerful. Even if Long does have a bad day on Saturday, the Rangers defense will not get much respite with his replacement. Unless you count the time it takes to make the substitution of course.
But, keep these two in check and keep a clean sheet, and Rangers will be in with a shout.