Queens Park Rangers: QPR's Path to Avoiding Relegation
Queens Park Rangers are still bottom of the table, which means if things stay as they are, they will be relegated to the Championship. However May 19 is still a long way off, and a lot can change in 17 games.
QPR need to find 27 more points to reach that magical 40-point mark that history has proven to guarantee safety in the Premier League (via SoccerAssociation), but how will they manage it?
Here is the path they must walk if they are to avoid relegation.
Pick Up Wins at Home
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QPR's EPL survival last year was in large part due to five consecutive wins at home in the last two months of the season. Rangers will need to go on a similar run to bolster their chance of avoiding relegation.
If three points are taken from every remaining home game, then Rangers will be sat on 40 points—hopefully enough to secure their third season in the Premier League.
Wrong. Rangers will be getting visits from Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United in the next six weeks, all of whom will expect to take one, if not three points. And taking anything off these in-form top-of-the table teams will be a tough ask.
The more winnable games in West London will be those against Norwich, Sunderland, Wigan, Stoke and Newcastle. The dropped points vs. Aston Villa and Southampton at Loftus Road earlier in the season need to be rectified against these five. And it will be essential for Harry Redknapp to devise a plan to notch victories against all of them.
Rangers desperately need to find form at home, no matter who they are facing. And with the fans behind them and a squad of players who actually want to fight for their future, they may just do that.
Cause an Upset or Two
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As mentioned, QPR have some tough home games coming up, let alone visits to both the blue and red halves of Merseyside.
However QPR need to throw away the form guide, the record book and the betting odds—and produce results against the big boys.
It can be done—Chelsea know that all too well. And the Super Hoops will be aiming to squeeze a draw from RVP and co. or nick a goal past Joe Hart in the next month in an attempt to aid their survival.
Points from Everton or Liverpool would also be a huge ask, but could well be a necessity. If they manage that, then the pressure that would undoubtedly be mounting as the season draws to a close could subside.
Picking up unexpected points is a bonus and will help QPR will creep closer to safety rather than relying on results that for one reason or another may not come.
They've done it before last season and they've done it against Chelsea this season (did I mention that?), so what's to say they can't do it again?
Starting with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
Beat the Teams Around Them
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Perhaps this should say "beat the teams above them," but the principle is the same.
Three points are obviously always the aim going into a football match, but three points over teams in the relegation dogfight are even more important.
Points gained on fellow strugglers will be decisive in Rangers' road to recovery and is something that has left the West London outfit in this situation in the first place.
Aston Villa, Southampton, Wigan and Reading are all sides that have taken precious points off QPR already this season, and that cannot be repeated in 2013. Rangers need to win these "relegation six-pointers" and drag as many teams as possible toward the bottom three so they can use them as a stepping stone to lift themselves out of the drop zone.
Of course, each of the teams mentioned will have the exact same idea. It will all be a case of who wants it more, where the luck falls and who can take their chance when it comes. And QPR fans will hope that this year is the Year of the Hoop.
Improve Goal Difference
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With Ryan Nelsen set to leave for the heady heights of MLS management (via BBC), and Sky Sports suggesting former manager Neil Warnock will be looking to tempt Clint Hill to Leeds (via Sky Sports), the need for defenders is more important than ever for Harry Redknapp.
Okay, so Tal Ben Haim has been added to the squad, and Rangers fans will be hoping he has more of a Ryan Nelsen impact than a Jose Bosingwa impact. But even if he turns out to be the best-ever signing for QPR, Redknapp will need to shore up the defense and stop leaking goals.
The other end is also a problem. Adel Taarabt is Rangers' top league scorer—with a grand total of four (via Eurosport). After recalling DJ Campbell, Jay Bothroyd and Rob Hulse, there are a lot more striking options for Redknapp compared to the past couple of months.
The former has been netting consistently for Ipswich in the Championship while on loan; however the latter will be unlikely to change the fortunes of the West London side with just two goals in 23 games for the club (via Soccerbase). Add into the mix that Bobby Zamora is also aiming to be back by the end of the month (via Evening Standard), all these returners will be a big boost for the squad.
Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie are obviously still at the top of Harry's list. But neither of them have that 15-goal-season look about them right now. So a proven goal scorer will be a priority for Redknapp as he looks for his side to score more than 17 League goals in the second half of the season.
With a minus-19-goal difference, Rangers will need to reduce that in the coming months through an improvement in defense and a better chance-to-goal ratio up top.
Nobody wants to be in that horrible situation where relegation occurs thanks to not scoring enough or conceding too many.
Pinpoint Fixtures Where Consecutive Victories Can Be Achieved
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And finally, Queens Park Rangers must build on their most recent result.
In case anyone missed it, QPR beat Chelsea 1-0 last week and claimed their first away victory since November 19, 2011 (via Soccerbase). However if that victory is a stand-alone result, then it shall prove fruitless in five months time.
Each time QPR earn a win, it needs to be a building block on for the next game. Beating a top team one week, then losing to three lower teams for the rest of the month will guarantee a definite return to the Championship.
Redknapp must pinpoint games where they can get a decent run of results and string a selection of wins together. The points will obviously be the most important outcome, but a couple of victories can change even the most dilapidated squad into one of belief and confidence.
And belief will be one of the main ingredients to determine where QPR will be playing their football next season.