Following the twists and turns of the busy Premier League campaign, Saturday brings us a welcome break from the pursuit of points, with a visit from London neighbours Queens Park Rangers in the FA Cup Third Round. It’s always a special weekend when the FA Cup kicks off with the big boys in the hat, and the fact that we will be facing fierce lower-league rivals simply adds more incentive to what is already an intriguing prospect. With QPR’s recent take-over and subsequent investment from a mega-rich steel mogul, it’s a match billed as a ‘battle of the billionaires’, but what is surely more valuable to both clubs is a place in the fourth round.
Avram Grant will be looking to build on his domestic cup experience, which consists of, er, one Israeli Cup win back in 1994. Many fans are calling for changes from league line-ups, and the inclusion of more youth players specifically. While it was perhaps surprising to see such a strong side against Liverpool in the League Cup a couple of weeks ago, it was understandable as we were playing (supposed) fellow league title challengers. QPR is a different kettle of fish altogether though, and it will be a big surprise if a full-strength side takes the field on Saturday afternoon.
With doubts over Petr Cech, Claude Makelele and Andriy Shevchenko, the smart money would be on not risking any one of them in the cup tie. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda are definitely out while Ricardo Carvalho is still serving a suspension. Recent loanees sent out to Loftus Road, Scott Sinclair and Ben Sahar, are available for selection having returned from the Hoops, while names currently being thrown about on the forums include Sam Hutchinson, Ryan Bertrand, Jimmy Smith, Miroslav Stoch Michael Woods, and Rhys Taylor, who already has featured on the bench in the last two Premier League games. Remember, you heard it on CFCnet first!
QPR have been using their big money to sensational effect since the transfer window opened. Big players? They got them alright. No, not Alessandro Del Piero, nor Ronaldinho for that matter. Instead, they have swooped for Gavin Mahon and Kieran Lee on loan, defenders Matthew Connolly and Fitz Hall, winger Hogan Ephraim and strikers Akos Buzsaky and Patrick Agyemang. I’m sure Avram is quaking in his expensive loafers at that list of world beaters. Michael Mancienne, our promising centre-back currently on loan at Luigi De Canio’s Championship strugglers, is ineligible for selection as part of the clubs’ loan agreement.
While the R’s will be hopeful of a giant-killing, it is worth noting that Macclesfield Town probably thought that same last season. We beat them 6-1. A repeat scoreline would be welcomed with open arms, and would set us well on our way to retaining the famous trophy. With a two-legged League Cup semi-final against Everton approaching fast, we could be cup kings once again. If anything, we need to bulk up Avram’s CV!
Prediction: A win from our under-12 side to really put our neighbours in their place. Depending on the side we put out and how we want to play, it could be anything from a tight win to a tremendous rout. Let’s hope for the latter and another lower-league side in the fourth round!