QPR v Aston Villa – Match Preview

QPR face a tough task as they go in search of their first home win of the season against an Aston Villa side who have started strongly under new boss Alex McLeish.

The R’s have improved dramatically since their opening day hammering at the hands of Bolton and last week’s 3-0 win away at Wolves proved that manager Neil Warnock is a shrewd operator in the transfer market. New captain Joey Barton shone at Molineux last week adding that combatative presence to midfield also weighing in with the opening goal to break his Rangers duck. Shaun Wright-Phillips was also impressive with his career having new life breathed into it after moving from Manchester City on loan. The diminutive winger was a constant thorn in Wanderers side with his direct running and blistering pace causing them problems all afternoon. Another summer signing also managed to find the net with DJ Campbell finally getting his name on the scoresheet after his switch from Blackpool. It’s certainly happier times at Loftus Road and confidence is now booming. Warnock has benefitted from Tony Fernandes’ takeover bringing in the likes of Barton, Wright-Phillips, former Villa man Luke Young and Anton Ferdinand adding some much needed Premier League knowledge that will be vital in their bid to avoid the drop. They’ll need to start scoring goals at home if they are going to stay up having failed to hit the net so far on their own patch and will be looking at strikers Campbell and Jay Bothroyd to do just that.

It will be a tough task against an Aston Villa side who have yet to taste defeat in the Premier League under new manager McLeish. The former Birmingham boss has guided his side to sixth place with four draws and a win giving them a respectable seven points from their opening fixtures. A trip to QPR will provide a new test for McLeish who must do it without leading marksman Darren Bent who’s injured. It shouldn’t be a worry though with Gabriel Agbonlahor in red hot form and his pacey movements in from the wing will be vital to Villa’s chances at Loftus Road. Last week’s draw against Newcastle was a lucky escape as the Magpies dominated for large portions of the game and McLeish had keeper Shay Given to thank for keeping his former employers at bay. He may have a similar job on this weekend although the last time QPR beat the Villans was in December 1995.

QPR have no new injury worries with Kieron Dyer and Jamie Mackie still going through their rehabilitation process.

Villa on the other hand will be without Bent and Emile Heskey although deadline day loan signing Jermaine Jenas could be fit enough for the bench.

Key Players

Joey Barton: Only two games into his QPR career and he’s already made headlines in both. Last week at Wolves he scored the opener and put in a dominant midfield performance. That was overshadowed by a spat with arch enemy Karl Henry and Warnock will be hoping his new skipper will be concentrating on football matters against Villa.

Gabriel Agbonlahor:  Three goals already this season has seen Agbonlahor become a vital cog in McLeish’s side. His pace has ripped teams apart in the past and coming in from wide positions he can be a threat. Will probably play more centrally on Sunday and will need service if he is to get the better of the Rangers rearguard.

Verdict: 2-1

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