Loftus Road – Sunday 28th December at 15:00
This London Derby had the look of an early season, six point relegation battle from the day the Premier League fixtures were released. Sure enough, after 18 games both clubs are embroiled in the fight against relegation near the bottom of the table. It is a battle which Crystal Palace will have to fight without a permanent manager, at least in the short term after they sacked Neil Warnock this afternoon.
Palace have won just a single match since September 27th and according to reports, he had lost the confidence of his squad not to mention the fans and now clearly the board have had enough as well. At least with 20 games still to be played, whoever comes in to take over from Warnock has enough time and crucially, the up coming transfer window in which to save the Eagles from dropping back into the Championship again come May.
Meanwhile over in West London, Queens Park Rangers continue with their bi-polar attempt to avoid relegation by winning at home and losing away. Thankfully for the fans, their latest away defeat against Arsenal saw a much improved performance and even though they still headed home without any points, Rangers look strong enough to avoid the drop if they can start to take a few more points on the road.
At Loftus Road, Harry Redknapp’s side have been almost perfect, winning four and drawing one since losing 3-2 to Liverpool when they came to visit back in October. After dominating the match and wasting numerous good chances, Rangers trailed 1-0 with just three minutes remaining before the madness began. Four late goals saw the match end 3-2 to Liverpool, with the winner coming deep into injury time from an own goal by Steven Caulker.
The traditional view of managerless teams is, that they play much better than before the manager was sacked because the players are now also playing for their place at the club and trying to impress any prospective new managers that might be watching. I’ve not seen any statistical evidence to back up this claim and the vast majority of players are playing for their place in any team, most weekends as very few players can claim to be irreplaceable.
The Eagles have actually been better away from home this season and playing in a Derby should also help but ultimately, they do not score enough goals and with QPR being so strong at home it seems likely that caretaker manager Keith Millen will start his temporary reign with a defeat. With Charlie Austin in such devastating form up front, Rangers have scored at least two goals in 7 of 9 home games this season and with Palace conceding two, in 6 of 9 away from home Rangers will be confident of taking all three points on Sunday.
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