The story so far
QPR have had a mixed bag of results so far this season and find themselves languishing in 16th place in the Championship. They have won three, drawn three and lost four games but have not tasted victory in their last five games.
Our visitors on Saturday have won three of their games at Loftus Road - victories over beaten playoff finalists Reading, high fliers Ipswich and recently relegated Hull City. Away from home has been a different story though, with the R’s only picking up two points from their five away trips this season.
Last time out - QPR 2-1 Fulham
QPR hosted Fulham last time out prior to the international break. The away side put in a dogged performance and came away with all three points in the West-London derby.
An unfortunate Ryan Fredericks goal was later credited to R’s defender Jack Robinson as it took a wicked deflection past goalkeeper Alex Smithies. Fulham had an opportunity to double their lead in the second half but Rui Fonte blazed a penalty over the bar to give QPR a chance of getting back into the fixture. Stefan Johansen killed the game off though, with a well worked goal and tidy finish with just five minutes left of the regulation 90. Conor Washington gave the hosts a chance of a comeback with a late goal - but Fulham held on for a 2-1 victory.
QPR will be without their captain and former Sunderland loanee Nedum Onuoha for this weekend’s visit to Wearside. Onuoha has torn his hamstring and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Former mag James Perch will also be out for the Saturday’s game after he dislocated his knee. Grant Hall returned for QPR U23s during the week, but he has said that this weekend's game will come too soon for him. Steven Caulker is also a doubt.
Luke Freeman has two goals and four assists heading into this weekend's game and seems to be the likely candidate to cause Sunderland problems. We already know how weak our full back areas have been this season, so seeing an inform winger face us is a daunting thought.
The former Arsenal academy product has played nearly 300 games despite being just 25 years old. Freeman joined QPR in January of this year from Bristol City for around £300,000 - a relative bargain. Freeman is direct in his style and is adept on either foot, meaning Sunderland’s full backs need to be wary of backing off and showing the winger onto either foot, as he can punish you.
Referee - Stephen Martin
Stephen Martin took charge of his first Sunderland game this season in our away draw at Sheffield Wednesday, but has not refereed QPR since October of last year where they draw 1-1 with Reading.
As an aside, it’s interesting to note that Martin was the referee who sent off two Newcastle players last season when they faced Nottingham Forest. So maybe he is a closet Mackem? One can hope.
Manager - Ian Holloway
A divisive figure within football, Holloway is a manager who has the reputation of a veteran coach who knows the division well - a steady hand. With two promotions out of the Championship to his name, it might be a tough ask of the 54-year old to get Rangers out of the division this time around.
Holloway rose to prominence for his spectacular ascent with Blackpool in which the Seasiders rose to the top and put up a hell of a fight to stay there - including a 2-0 robbery win at the Stadium of Light in 2010.
Eventually the Blackpool bubble burst, they were relegated and then lost a Playoff final to West Ham. Holloway found himself at Crystal Palace and guided them to a Playoff victory in 2013 - Kevin Phillips scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Watford.
That run with the Eagles came to an end early in the 2013-14 season - his only victory for Palace in the top flight was a 3-1 home win over Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland. A spell at Millwall followed in which he oversaw their relegation from the Championship. He then worked for Sky Sports before returning to the club he managed from 2001-2006, QPR.
QPR, like almost every side we have played this season, will come to the Stadium of Light with a game plan to stifle the crowd and steal the game on the counter attack. You can bet your bottom dollar that Ian Holloway will have his boys drilled for the game with an attitude of break us down if you can.
That being said, it is clear that QPR are a work in progress. Holloway is starting to get his identity across to the players and they do like to keep ahold of the ball rather than play the old lump it up style.
QPR operate with good width, which is a cause for concern with our poor form against decent wingers, so Grayson will likely tell whoever he starts as full backs on Saturday to keep it tight and not overlap too often.