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Last four head-to-head:
1-0 Liverpool (h) 05.19.13
3-0 Liverpool (a) 12.30.12
2-3 QPR (a) 03.21.12
1-0 Liverpool (h) 12.10.11
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 West Brom (h); 0-1 Basel (a); 1-1 Everton (h)
QPR: 0-2 West Ham (a); 1-2 Southampton (a); 2-2 Stoke (h)
Liverpool: Sterling 3; Gerrard 2; Henderson, Lallana, Moreno, Sturridge 1
QPR: Austin 2; Caulker, Kranjcar 1
Referee: Phil Dowd
Guess at a line-up:
Manquillo Skrtel Toure Moreno
Sterling Balotelli Lallana
Well shit. Just when we thought we were out of the woods.
Allen's back! Can's back! Markovic wasn't really injured! Lovren might even be available! For once, an international break wasn't that bad.
And then Daniel Sturridge had to go and get injured again, in training, just when we thought he'd finally recovered. A calf strain now, after the earlier thigh strain. Fantastic.
So while Allen's return (as well as Can's) has the potential to help Liverpool's midfield immensely, we're still at frustrating square one up front.
And we're left with the same cobbled solutions. Will Lallana's steady improvement after missing the start of the season through injury lead to enough improvement in the 4-3-3? Does Rodgers need to give Borini or Lambert another shot in the 4-4-2 diamond? Can Balotelli get more of his shots inside the box rather than settling for long range efforts and/or put more of his shots on target?
We supposedly have a month to find out before Sturridge will be fit again. Just in time for another international break.
So I suspect it'll be the same formation which beat West Brom just before the break, but with Balotelli instead of Lambert and Allen back in the fold, and Liverpool will continue to need the type of support that Lallana, Sterling, and Henderson provided to fairly good effect in that fixture. The other possible change is at center-back, with Lovren questionable after pulling out of the Croatia squad with an abdomen issue. If Lovren's unavailable, we'll probably get a Kolo Toure sighting, as Sakho's still injured as well. So hold onto your butts.
If Toure has to play, at least Liverpool are facing what's been the worst side and worst attack in the league so far this season. QPR are currently bottom of the table on goal difference, having taken just four points while scoring just four goals and conceding 15. Although similar abhorrent records haven't stopped sides scoring against Liverpool before.
Redknapp's primarily played 4-5-1 so far this season, rarely braving two strikers up top. Even though they're at home, chances are that'll be the case tomorrow, more concerned with packing the midfield and defense against Liverpool than testing Liverpool's sometimes shambling defense. There's a template out there for stopping Liverpool, especially Liverpool without Sturridge, and I expect Redknapp will mostly follow it.
Barton, Mutch, and Faurlin are out injured, while Kranjcar will be a late fitness test, although I expect him to play if available. Which would make tomorrow's likely XI: Green; Onouha, Caulker, Ferdinand, Traore; Hoilett, Henry, Sandro, Fer, Kranjcar; Austin. The same XI which lost 0-2 to West Ham last time out. Matt Phillips and Adel Taraabt are options if Kranjcar is unavailable or in place of Hoilett. Isla could also play at either right wing – if Redknapp wants to double up with defenders on that flank – or right-back. If Redknapp surprisingly decides to go with two up front, the second striker will probably be Zamora, but Chilean Eduardo Vargas is also an option.
Liverpool have seven matches in the next 21 days. QPR, Madrid, Hull, Swansea, Newcastle, Madrid, and Chelsea. And Liverpool cannot look past tomorrow's fixture, no matter how weak they're opponent's been so far this season. The key to this run, which will go a long way in defining Liverpool's Champions League campaign, if not the league campaign, is to start it well, to build confidence and momentum before heading into more difficult fixtures. And, as usual, the key to playing well tomorrow will be to start tomorrow's match quickly, in complete contrast to the return from the last international break, where Liverpool went behind early to Aston Villa and never recovered.