Neil Warnock’s men have enjoyed a reasonable start to their first Premier League campaign for 15 years despite sitting just three points above the drop zone. Defeat to Manchester United on Sunday was their sixth loss in their last 11 games and leaves them in 15th place in the table going into Christmas. The R’s have performed well in games that they have lost but Warnock will be unhappy with the way his side played against United. Rangers just simply weren’t at the races against Sir Alex Ferguson’s men and may as well have stayed in the dressing such was the ineptness of their display. Scoring goals has been their main issue this season scoring only 15 times in as many games which is something that will need to improve if they are going to remain in the top four. Summer signing Jay Bothroyd hasn’t had the desired effect whilst fellow new recruit DJ Campbell has struggled to remain fit since his move from Blackpool. Veteran Heidar Helguson has shouldered the goal-scoring burden for much of the season and Rangers will need to find someone to share the responsibility going into the second half of the season.
Finding the net on a regular basis is an affliction that has also plagued Sunderland’s campaign thus far. The Black Cats sit just a point above the drop zone winning just three of their 16 games scoring just 21 goals in that period. Losing Darren Bent, Asamoah Gyan and Danny Wellbeck in 2011 ultimately cost former boss Steve Bruce his job as replacements Nicklas Bendtner and Connor Wickham failed to sufficiently replace the prolific trio. Depite that there is a feel good factor flowing around Wearside following the appointment of Martin O’Neill with the Northern Irishman inspiring his new crop of players to victory over Blackburn in his first game as manager. Unfortunately he couldn’t guide his side to a win against Tottenham last week although the level of their performance is evidently higher than it was a month ago. The decision to recall David Vaughan to the starting line up has proved to be a shrewd move from O’Neill with the Wales midfielder scoring the crucial equaliser against Rovers and adding an extra dash of much needed creativity into the middle. That ingenuity could be key to Sunderland leaving the capital with all three points on Wednesday night and moving above QPR in the table.
QPR 15th : 16 points
Team news: Jay Bothroyd and Danny Gabbidon could return from injury to face Sunderland although Anton Ferdinand may have to wait until Boxing Day to make his comeback and miss the chance to play against his former club.
Key Player: Shaun Wright-Phillips
The former Manchester City winger has been reborn at Loftus Road with regular first team football bringing the best out of him. Wright-Phillips has the pace and skill to decimate teams in an instant and will be out to do just that against Sunderland.
Sunderland 16th : 14 points
Team news: Martin O’Neill has no new injury worries ahead of the trip to QPR and could recall captain Lee Cattermole to the side.
Key Player: David Vaughan
Cast into the shadows by former manager Steve Bruce it looked as if Vaughan’s career at the Stadium of Light was over before it had began. His performances in the last two games have offered supporters a glimpse at his undoubted playmaking abilities and he’ll be desperate to continue making up for lost time against QPR.
Both sides sit on the cusp of danger and know a win will provide a nice buffer between themselves and the bottom three going into Christmas. QPR are in poor form at the moment and have struggled at Loftus Road this season. Sunderland have been lifted by the arrival of Martin O’Neill and should fare better in the capital then they did against Tottenham last Sunday.