Queens Park Rangers and Reading are the only teams left in the Premier League without a win, and they both face each other on Sunday. This is the first time they will ever play each other in the top flight, according to The Independent, despite meeting 84 times in the past.
QPR have already hosted Reading once this season in the Capital One Cup in September. That encounter left the hoops from Berkshire one-up on the hoops from West London on the season, in what was a dramatic 3-2 victory for the Royals.
However, QPR have been looking like a very different team to the one that played just over a month ago. With Mark Hughes under more and more pressure, this is not just a need-to-win game for Rangers—this is a must win.
Can QPR break their winless streak and get a victory at Loftus Road? Read on to find out how they might be able to.
Bobby Zamora hasn't scored in fives game for QPR, and he has looked off the pace.
Rangers have been performing much better in recent matches, and despite being given opportunities to score, Zamora has failed to do so.
Since playing vs. Tottenham, Zamora's ratings have dropped to below 6.00 (via WhoScored.com) and he has been less than effective.
However, there is a ready-made replacement waiting on the bench in Djibril Cisse. The Frenchman too looked out of form early in the season, but has impressed more since appearing as a substitute in recent games.
With Zamora looking like he could be a doubt for Sunday (via QPR.co.uk), perhaps it is time for Hughes to move Cisse into the starting position against a side who have conceded 17 goals in eight matches (via BBC Sport).
With Ji-Sung Park very unlikely to feature (via QPR.co.uk) and Stephane M'Bia suspended, the team's remaining central midfield options are Esteban Granero, Samba Diakite, Alejandro Faurlin and Shaun Derry.
As he has in the past couple of games, Hughes should line his players up in a 4-3-2-1 formation with Adel Taarabt and Junior Hoilett behind the front man.
Who should play in the center of the park?
Granero will most likely start in the center, as has been the case since his transfer. Meanwhile, with limited central midfielders to choose from, Diakite and Faurlin look the most likely to join him.
With these three men playing a more defensive role, Taarabt and Hoilett will have the freedom to express their creativity and push up the field without having to worry too much about tracking back.
This would also leave options on the bench to move to a more attacking 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 formation should things not be going the team's way.
Hughes will be able to take off a defensive midfielder and bring on Jamie Mackie or Shaun Wright-Phillips for an extra attacking edge. He can move Hoilett next to Cisse and send Taarabt and either Mackie or SWP onto the wings, allowing Rangers to push for that extra goal or two, should it be required.
The majority of Reading's goals—eight of 11—have come from open play so far this season.
The majority of Reading's possession—74 percent (via WhoScored.com) has been maintained through short passes, while only 18 percent has been maintained using the long ball.
This means that QPR will need to break down the Royals in the middle of the park, rather than relying on the defense to pluck balls out of the air.
QPR need to take control of the midfield. If they do that, possession will be broken up and Reading will need to try another tactic—either playing long balls or using the wings—with which they have had less success.
According to WhoScored.com, 68 percent of Reading's shots have come down the middle, while 89 percent have come from the edge of the 18-yard box or further out.
If the Royals are bullied out of the middle, they will have nowhere to go except down the flanks, which is something they are less comfortable with.
Fabio da Silva is still injured, and Armand Traore is currently a doubt. Therefore, the left-back position is open again (via QPR.co.uk).
Hughes cannot revert to playing Clint Hill at left-back, which he did when Rangers were struggling with injuries earlier in the season. Hill was too slow and looked very poor in that position.
Nedum Onuoha is the best option to line up on the left, with Ryan Nelsen and Anton Ferdinand in the center and Jose Bosingwa on the right.
With his pace, Onuoha is capable of covering any Reading attack down the left, which means Rangers will have a much better chance of not conceding a goal due to poor defending on the flanks.
Arsenal showed on Tuesday that you can never give up against Reading.
The Gunners were 4-0 down at halftime, but turned it around to win 5-7 (via The Guardian) in a thrilling game which will have given QPR hope that Reading can crumble.
Granted, the QPR squad is not as good as the Arsenal team, but a 10-man Rangers side did hold their own against the Gunners on Saturday and only fell to a single (debatable) goal.
The biggest issue in the final 15 minutes—when QPR played Everton—was that Rangers couldn't finish strongly with a goal, even when the opposition had a player sent off.
QPR need to find that instinct to kill a game off, and not give up even if they are one or two goals down with minutes to play.
Confidence is key, and QPR need to find some and use it to leave Reading as the only team without a win this season.