The dawn of a new Premier League season is almost upon us and it’s shaping up to be one of the most entertaining in its over 20-year history. For QPR, the new season begins at home with a new look Swansea City as their opponents.
The R’s were in the centre of the dramatic climax to the 2011/12 season after Sergio Aguero’s late strike past former goalkeeper Paddy Kenny sealed Manchester City’s first Premier League title but results elsewhere also meant the defeat was enough for QPR to survive the drop.
Whilst there was less drama on the final day of the season for Swansea, the club have had some major restructuring to do. After the departure of Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool – the team they defeated 1-0 in Rodgers’ final game at the club – chairman Huw Jenkins recruited footballing legend Michael Laudrup as heir to the Liberty throne.
Not only has there been a change in management but also some key players have departed the South Wales club. Previously on-loan midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson was all but ready to sign on the dotted line to complete a record £6m+ signing but after the news of Rodgers leaving the Icelandic international decided to look elsewhere to ply his trade. In addition to Sigurdsson, Swansea product Joe Allen was sold for a record £15m fee to Liverpool as Rodgers continues to transform the Merseyside team.
Laudrup’s extensive knowledge of La Liga was instantly called upon to replace these players. Jonathan de Guzman brought in on loan from Villareal has been filling the void left by Joe Allen, the attacking midfield spot left by Sigurdsson has been filled by Michu – a player who scored 15 goals last season for lowly positioned Rayo Vallecano – and finally Chico Flores is handed Steven Caulker’s old number 4 shirt.
QPR on the other hand have had a busy Summer transfer window themselves. No less than eight players have already joined, including double Champions League winner Jose Bosingwa and ex-Manchester United workhorse Park Ji-Sung, with the signings still coming as Mark Hughes looks to make the most of the money available to him at the club.
The new signings in West London should certainly lift any potential expectation of another relegation fight this season but it still could be a bumpy start for Rangers with so many new players having to form an understanding in the opening few games but the same could be said for Swansea who will have Michael Laudrup taking charge of his first Premier League game.
If previous meetings between the teams are anything to go by, then it will definitely be Mark Hughes celebrating at the final whistle. Last seasons fixture saw QPR overwhelm the Swans to ease to a 3-0 victory and the meeting between the two clubs during QPR’s Championship winning season of 2010/11 saw the club go one better with a 4-0 victory but could Laudrup inspire the end to the Loftus Road hoodoo?
No less than eight of QPR’s Summer signings will be looking to make their competitive debuts with many likely to start. Robert Green is a near dead certainty to start in goal plus Fabio and Ryan Nelsen could also start in front of the ex-West Ham keeper. Jose Bosingwa may also be included in the squad tomorrow but may not start after only signing with the club on Friday afternoon.
The new look midfield for Rangers should also include some debutants with Park Ji-Sung and Junior Hoilett in contention to play however Andrew Johnson may have to wait as existing strike duo Dijbril Cisse and Bobby Zamora should start, provided that Zamora overcomes a niggling knee injury.
Three other players also will be in doubt to make the squad for the opening game. Jamie Mackie (calf), Armand Traoré (ankle) and Samba Diakité (knee) will all face late fitness tests before the match.
But one player who won’t be on the pitch for QPR is Joey Barton. The bad boy midfielder has been banned for twelve matches after incidents with Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany in their final game of the 2011/12 season and has not been given a squad number ahead of the new season.
Michael Laudrup’s Swansea have a near clean bill of health ahead of the first game of the season with only club stalwart Garry Monk looking doubtful for the match with a back injury.
Laudrup is likely to field the side which drew 3-3 against Stuttgart in pre-season, which will see Jonathan de Guzman, Chico and Michu all make their Premier League debuts.
On-loan striker Itay Shechter won’t displace Danny Graham leading the line for Swansea but could also make his debut if brought on from the bench, where he is expected to be named.
Wayne Routledge may be looking for a starting berth after the future of winger Scott Sinclair thrown into disarray. Sinclair has stated to both chairman Huw Jenkins and Laudrup that he will not be renewing his contract at the Liberty Stadium. Whether Laudrup decides to start Routledge over Sinclair to prepare for life after the former Team GB player is yet to be seen.
QPR (from): Green, Diakité, Traoré, Derry, Ferdinand, Hill, Park, Johnson, Cissé, Taarabt, Wright-Phillips, Mackie, Onuoha, Connolly, Nelsen, Dyer, Bosingwa, Fabio, Ephraim, Hoilett, Cerny, Zamora, Murphy, Harriman, Ehmer, Doughty, Faurlin.
Expected line-up: (4-4-2): Green; Fabio, Ferdinand, Onuoha, Nelsen; Hoilett, Faurlin, Taarabt, Park; Zamora, Cissé
Swansea (from): Vorm, Taylor, Chico, Tate, Williams, Britton, Orlandi, Michu, Graham, Sinclair, Dyer, Cornell, Dobbie, Routledge, Monk, Shechter, Lita, Moore, de Guzman, Bessone, Rangel, Situ, Tremmel, Gower, Obeng, Richards, Davies
Expected line-up: (4-3-3): Vorm; Taylor, Chico, Williams, Rangel; de Guzman, Britton, Michu; Sinclair, Dyer, Graham
Italics indicate doubtful.
Prediction: 2 – 2 – points are hard to come by for Swansea at Loftus Road, but with Laudrup’s attacking mindset there could be plenty of goals at both ends. The new style of play could catch QPR off guard to ensure at least a point for the visitors.
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