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Last four head-to-head:
3-2 Liverpool (a) 10.19.14
1-0 Liverpool (h) 05.19.13
3-0 Liverpool (a) 12.30.12
2-3 QPR (a) 03.21.12
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-1 Hull (a); 0-0 West Brom (a); 1-2 Villa (n); 2-0 Newcastle (h)
QPR: 0-0 West Ham (h); 0-1 Chelsea (h); 3-3 Villa (a)
Liverpool: Sterling 7; Gerrard, Henderson 6; Coutinho, Lallana, Sturridge 4; Lambert, Markovic, Moreno 2; Allen, Balotelli, Borini, Can, Johnson, Skrtel 1
QPR: Austin 17; Fer 4; Vargas, Zamora 3; Kranjcar, Phillips 2; Barton, Caulker, Hill, Sandro 1
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Guess at a line-up:
Can Skrtel Lovren
Ibe Henderson Allen Moreno
Lallana Sterling Coutinho
It's been 200 minutes since Liverpool last scored a league goal: the last two matches and the last 20 minutes against Newcastle. 200 minutes against teams currently 13th, 14th, and 15th.
Even if the season's gone, with a Champions League place gone and with the FA Cup gone, that's unacceptable. So you can't keep doing the same things that have gotten Liverpool to this place. You can't keep playing 4-1-2-3 or 4-2-3-1 with Balotelli or Borini or Lambert up front and hope that things improve. Because we've seen little sign of that happening.
But what's the alternative? Sterling as the main striker rather than one of those three misfit musketeers? A return to the 3-4-3 which was so swiftly dropped when it appeared that teams had started to figure it out? A 4-4-2 diamond? That Gerrard, Lucas, and Moreno should all return to the squad gives Liverpool a few more options, even if none adds firepower to a squad which so desperately needs it.
I honestly don't know what the answer is. There simply aren't goals in this squad, no matter how you dress it up. But since Liverpool has looked best this season when playing 3-4-3 and QPR will most likely play 4-4-2, a return to 3-4-3 seems the safest option. Or, differently put, Austin and Zamora one-on-one against Skrtel and Lovren is a terrifying prospect and for the love of all that's holy, stop playing Balotelli, Lambert, or Borini as a lone striker.
There's no guarantee that Bobby Zamora – who caused Liverpool a fair few problems in the reverse fixture – will be fit, a late fitness test after suffering a knock last week. And if Zamora's not fit, QPR will struggle to deploy two strikers with Vargas also injured, Junior Hoilett out of favor, and Zarate returning to West Ham from loan after an injury earlier this month.
If that's the case, QPR will probably have to play 4-2-3-1, with either Fer or Taarabt or Wright-Phillips coming into the side. Otherwise, the QPR line-up is far easier to predict. Green, Onuoha, Dunne, Caulker, Hill; Phillips, Barton, Sandro, Henry; Austin have started almost every match under Ramsey when available.
The above guess would mean that Gerrard's left on the bench despite being available, which – sentimentality be damned – I'm fine with. At this point, no matter that he has at most four Liverpool games left, he's best used as a substitute, and Liverpool are best served by playing players who'll be here next season. Similar goes for Johnson, and probably Balotelli, Lambert, and Borini as well.
The "best" way to shoehorn Gerrard into the XI is probably in a 4-2-3-1 behind Sterling, flanked by Lallana and Coutinho, with Henderson and Lucas or Allen as the central midfielders. But that's only because it's where he can do the least damage; Liverpool have looked far worse when he's been one of the wide attackers in the 3-4-3, or as one of the central midfielders, or as the deepest midfielder in either a 4-2-1-3 or a 4-4-2 diamond.
Which probably means that we'll see Mignolet; Can, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson; Coutinho, Balotelli, Sterling, because there's only four weeks left and Liverpool have so much more pain left to give us.
So will this be another match where Liverpool hand points to a relegation-threatened side which desperately needs them? QPR are currently 19th, four points from safety, with just one win in their last nine matches. QPR need points even more than West Brom, even more than Hull, and will have to go in search of them.
Of course, there's a "but." QPR's lone win over that stretch was a 4-1 annihilation of West Brom, a team that held Liverpool scoreless a week ago. They drew 3-3 with Villa, another who's beaten Liverpool's recently, drew with West Ham, and took Chelsea all the way to the end before losing 0-1 on a late goal. Their last two wins, against West Brom and Sunderland, both came away from home. Like Hull, like West Brom, QPR will look at Liverpool's form and go "yep, this is probably our best chance at getting some points." They'll attack Liverpool like Villa attacked Liverpool: long balls to Zamora or Austin like Benteke; Phillips and another floating inside like Grealish and N'Zogbia; runners from midfield, whether Barton or Sandro, like Delph.
QPR have nothing to lose. Sure, a loss will probably seal relegation, but they're expected to lose, they're expected to go down. Meanwhile, Liverpool have played their last two matches like they've nothing to play for.
That bodes poorly, and it's up to Rodgers and Liverpool to change that trend in what little time they have left this season.