Queens Park Rangers Preview - Away, December 21
SUNDERLAND ARE back in the capital this Wednesday night as they visit Loftus Road to face Neil Warnock and QPR.
The Hoops are out the relegation zone by two points at present and directly above the Black Cats. They will however surely spend big again in January under new owner Tony Fernandes.
Despite a 4-0 humbling at the Loft on the first day of the season, Warnock's side have kept their head above the parapet since then, enjoying excellent victories over Everton and Chelsea since.
The 1-0 victory over their fellow West Londoners was the Hoops first and at present, only, home victory of the season. Rangers have scored just six home goals, a record worse than any other side in the Premier League.
However, despite those damning statistics, QPR will provide a tough obstacle on Wednesday. Late additions in the August Transfer Window included former Mags midfielder Joey Barton, Arsenal left-back Armand Traore, Manchester City's forgotten man, Sean Wright-Phillips whilst our own Anton Ferdinand moved onto the Loft as well.
One of the key men of last season, Adel Taraabt, has found himself out of favour in the top-flight, whilst experienced professionals such as Clint Hill and Shaun Derry have had to double their efforts in order to continue winning a first-team place.
The addition of Barton was the stand-out purchase of the summer, captured on a 'free transfer' from up the road, the former City midfielder is on hefty wages in West London and has immediately seized the captaincy from temperamental Morccocan international, Taraabt. Having fallen out spectacularly with the St James' hierarchy over a new contract, the one-cap England international was alleged to have been pursued by more established Premier League sides before heading South. A rambunctious, box-to-box midfielder with an eye for a goal, Barton is yet to open his account for the R's.
Another big arrival late in the day was Wright-Phillips who left the Etihad after a largely unsuccessful second spell, arriving just before the riches of the Qatari royal family bought the club. The England winger actually marked his second Citizens debut with a goal against the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light. In total Wright-Phillips made 178 league starts, scoring 35 goals during a 10 year association. As dangerous a winger as they come in the top-flight, SWP will undoubtedly benefit from playing regular football.
At the back, Paddy Kenny has been a rock for the R's since moving last summer. However, injury currently sees the former Sheffield United and Halifax stopper sidelined meaning veteran Czech Radek Cerny is currently the man between the sticks, though he is now fit for selection again. Player of the season last year, the Irish stopper has been sorely missed in recent weeks with his backup and fellow Irishman, Brian Murphy also sidelined.
Another former Mag and summer arrival is Kieron Dyer who is also currently injured. The former Ipswich midfielder lasted just seven minutes of the opening day defeat before being stretchered off. The most recent indication is that the 32 will be out for the remainder of the season.
Ferdinand and Jay Bothroyd are doubtful due to hamstring and knee injuries, while Danny Gabbidon could miss out with a gashed leg.
Connnor Wickham has fluid on his knee so is rate as doubtful meaning Nicklas Bendtner could come into the side in his place. Wes Brown should recover from a knee knock in time whilst Phil Bardsley is expected to recover from a thigh niggle.
Queens Park Rangers: Kenny; Young, Connolly, Gabbidon, Traore; Wright-Phillips, Faurlin, Barton (c), Mackie; Helguson & Campbell.
Sunderland: Westwood; O'Shea, Brown, Bramble, Bardsley; Larsson, Colback, Vaughan, Richardson; Sessegnon; Bendtner.