Preview: A Big Game In The Big Smoke

Clive Brunskill

Sunderland travel down to Queens Park Rangers this weekend with both teams in desperate need of all three points. The hosts are struggling of late, but unfortunately so are we and this could be a huge game for both of us. Get all the buildup you need right here in our preview.

Sunderland Team News

Sunderland came through the draw with Fulham without picking up any injuries or suspensions, unless you count that of Matt Kilgallon who was set to be a substitute until he took ill before kick-off.

With this in mind it's highly unlikely that Martin O'Neill is going to shake things up too much. Danny Rose is reportedly back in contention and given the manager's swiftness to plug-in key players regardless of fitness we could see him return as the only change to the back line.

Kader Mangane will likely have to continue to wait for his debut with Titus Bramble sticking in the middle of the defence alongside John O'Shea.

If there is to be a change, we could see Danny Graham taken out the starting lineup with James McClean coming back into midfield, and Stephane Sessegnon pushed into attack with Steven Fletcher. It's probably what I'd do, but it seems O'Neill and the players want to continue with this 4-4-2 system and we'll lineup as we did for the last two weeks.

Queens Park Rangers Team News

Harry Redknapp has been somewhat of a tinkerman of late in trying to find an eleven capable of the mammoth task of keeping the Hoops in the Premier League, but following last week's 2-1 win away at Southampton it's likely he could stick largely to the same side.

The one and only change could be a good one for us though as goalkeeper Julio Cesar has picked up a hamstring injury and was replaced in that game by Robert Green.

The rest of the side should lineup the same though with a hybrid 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation with Jay Bothroyd and the returning Loic Remy providing the main dangers.

Non-factor players such as Andy Johnson, Tal Ben Haim and Bobby Zamora will all likely miss out with long-term injuries.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, O'Shea, Rose; Sessegnon, N'Diaye, Larsson, Johnson; Graham, Fletcher

Queens Park Rangers: Green; Bosingwa, Samba, Hill, Traore; Park, Mbia, Granero; Remy, Bothroyd, Hoilett

Key Matchup: Titus Bramble Vs Loic Remy

This prospect scares me somewhat, even if Remy is out wide and Craig Gardner is helping out in covering the man who could have signed for them up the road before they stepped aside.

Remy's pace and power will be handful for Gardner, but even more so for Bramble if the Frenchman is deployed centrally with Redknapp eyeing up the potential matchup problem.

Remy has been in good goalscoring form when he's actually been on the pitch and will prove to be a tricky customer for our defence made of slow players and converted midfielders. I don't fancy the right-hand side of our defence up against him at all. Even the left-hand side still doesn't make me comfortable.

Recent Form: DDLLW

Draw: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Manchester City

Draw: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Norwich City

Loss: Swansea City 4-1 Queens Park Rangers (Michu 8 & 67, Rangel 18, Hernandez 50; Zamora 48)

Loss Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Manchester United (Rafael 23, Giggs 80)

Win: Southampton 1-2 Queens Park Rangers (Ramirez 45; Remy 14, Bothroyd 77)

Last Time Around: Queens Park Rangers 2-3 Sunderland, 21/12/11

Despite the fact we were bemoaning a midweek trip to London right before Christmas, this game was a great one. The result wasn't too bad either.

Nicklas Bendtner nodded Sunderland ahead in the opening twenty minutes and that's how things stayed right up until the second half when with the home side pushing for an equaliser, Stephane Sessegnon produced a magical solo run and effort to double the lead and send us home happy.

Or so it seemed was going to be the case anyway before two goals in five minutes from Queens Park Rangers' Jamie Mackie and Heidur Helguson restored parity and had travelling fans distraught.

In the final minute however Wes Brown (remember him?) looped a header in from a corner to turn frowns upside down and make the long trip back to the North East a happy one.

The Ref: Mike Jones

This will be Mike Jones' third time officiating Sunderland this season, and we haven't been on the winning side in either of those two games. In fact both games were among our worst of the season in the 2-2 draw away at Bolton Wanderers and the 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Aston Villa.

Overall Jones has officiated 15 Premier League games this season and hasn't been shy in making decisions with 56 yellow cards dished out, 2 red cards and four penalties. Among those though he's yet to send anyone off for two yellows, which makes it look as though his decision making process is quite cut and dry.

What The Managers Said

Martin O'Neill:

QPR is a difficult issue. They will be fighting for everything, having won last week.

Their side has been changed around somewhat since Harry Redknapp came in and it will be a monumental battle.

Saturday is a difficult game for us, but I believe we shouldn't have been beaten in any of our games recently, including the one against Arsenal.

There are more points we need to get, and it would be nice to do that this weekend.

Harry Redknapp:

Teams that are six-seven-eight points above us will be looking, it can change so quickly, it can evaporate very quickly.

A couple of wins and losses and it can soon happen. We need a run of wins. We need another five wins at least.

We need to win half our games and get a draw or two. If we can get to 37 points, I'd take 37 points and walk away and take my chances.

Roker Report Predicts

This one will be very tough I think. As stated earlier, both teams need the points incredibly badly and I'm not feeling overly optimistic despite our recent results against Queens Park Rangers. At the moment I'd take a draw, and I think a low-scoring one is in prospect. 1-1 wouldn't be overly terrible before we take on Norwich next week.

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