Rangers aren’t pushing for promotion like last weekend’s opposition Fulham, and are neither doomed for relegation like Rotherham. In many ways, their ambitions mirror City’s — to ensure the rest of the season does not dwindle into irrelevancy.
With play-off ambitions unrealistic, at best Warnock is looking to build up some steam ahead of next season’s campaign. Likewise, Rangers’ boss Ian Holloway will want his team to begin to gel after his rebuild during the January transfer window — where he brought in eight new faces — and pick up some momentum.
Harbouring hopes of continuing City’s stellar form, Warnock will have to be wary of these key facts about the R’s as he makes a return to the club he took to the Premier League in 2011/12 for the first time in fifteen years.
Style of play
It has been an incredibly frustrating season for QPR, struggling to achieve anything close to consistent good form, with impressive results often followed by disappointing ones. Their 2-2 draw against Newcastle away was followed by a 1-0 defeat to relegation-threatened Blackburn just three days later, encapsulating their maddening lack of consistency.
As a result, it is difficult to predict what QPR team will actually turn up on Saturday afternoon.
What is guaranteed, however, is that Holloway’s men will attempt to ruffle a few Bluebirds feathers. Whilst not an overly-physical team, Rangers will not mind being aggressive in the challenge, and Warnock’s men will have to stand tall.
Such challenges are often the starting point for many of Rangers’ goals this season. The R’s look to turn the ball over in dangerous areas and capitalise on the panic and disorganisation this loss of possession causes.
When taking the game to an opposition, Holloway instructs his men to pass the ball out wide and whip balls in; the addition of the imposing Matt Smith up-front has increased the importance placed on such play.
QPR are not particularly potent going forward, having only scored more than two goals in a game twice this season. But, they also are not particularly leaky at the back, and have not conceded more than two since suffering a 3-0 defeat at the hands of high-flying Brighton back in December.
Holloway’s team will look to pounce when they can, but remain defensively organised when not in possession.
Perhaps the only manager in the Championship that can rival Warnock for sheer entertainment,Holloway’s sharp quips and humorous stories mean he is gold for the media and fans alike.
The ex-Blackpool manager took over at Rangers following Jimmy Floyd Hasslebank’s abject start to the season, were he left the club languishing in 17th place.
If the QPR faithful expected a ‘manager bounce’, they would have been disappointed. Holloway oversaw six defeats in his first seven matches. Fortunately for QPR, results have since improved, with the club now sitting comfortably in mid-table after Holloway managed to inject some confidence and belief into his team’s play.
With a passionate and uncompromising duo of Warnock and Holloway, the touchline at Loftus Road is set to be an animated one.
Washington is QPR’s creative spark, and the ex-Newport County player will be keen to get one over on his old rivals. The boisterous forward has two goals and an assist in his last three games and is beginning to hit a patch of good form.
The Northern Ireland international occupies a role just off the striker and will latch onto any loose balls, whilst also looking to carve out opportunities through crafty dribbling and bursts of pace.
Washington’s game has accelerated since the arrival of Matt Smith in a £500k deal from Fulham during the January window. Smith and Washington are showing early signs of forming an effective partnership.
Like Washington, Smith has two goals in his last three matches and has been the R’s stand-out performer. His obtrusive presence means he is a handful for any centre-back and the City defenders can expect a physical battle come Saturday.
Proficient in the air with controlled build-up play, Smith will be a proxy through which Washington can demonstrate his creativity.
There is a perceptible naivety in QPR’s play that can be exposed by City. Holloway’s side commit large numbers when going forward, often leaving their defence vulnerable. The vacuum of space that is then left between the onrushing midfielders and the defence is room to be exploited. If City can catch QPR and spring a counter attack, it is likely the Bluebirds will have a favourable four-on-four situation in any given counter-attacking scenario.
The R’s have conceded 11 goals from set-pieces this season and are the 4th worst team in the Championship for letting in headed goals. With City so clinical when it comes to set-pieces, this presents an obvious opportunity and will be music to the ears of Sean Morrison and co.
A total of 39 of their 47 goals conceded have come from inside the box, suggesting a lack of discipline in terms of marking.
QPR will wear a commemorative all-white kit to celebrate fifty year since they upset the odds and won the League Cup, being a third-tier team at the time. The last time Cardiff played a QPR team that were lined head-to-toe in a white strip was the 2003 play-off final: we all know how that turned out.
City fans will be hoping for the same outcome this time around and as Warnock’s men are brimming with confidence, such fans are likely to be heading back to Cardiff satisfied.
It is likely to be a lively game, with both sides willing to take the game to their opponents, however Cardiff’s surging belief and extra ounce of quality should be enough to see them return with three points.