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Preview: Queens Park Rangers (H) - December 29

WATFORD will look to build on their Boxing Day mauling of Millwall as they finish 2013 by playing host to third-placed Queens Park Rangers.

With a win and a draw from his first two fixtures in charge of the Golden Boys, head coach Beppe Sannino will be keen to build on that 4-0 triumph over the Lions and end the year with back-to-back wins.

Queens Park Rangers arrive at the Vic` following back-to-back defeats for the first time this season, having lost to east Midlands outfits Leicester City and Nottingham Forest in their last two outings without scoring.

Despite the lofty position of Harry Redknapp`s side, goals have been a problem for the Hoops this term, with their tally of 24 in 22 games making them the lowest scorers in the top half of the Championship table.

Of those 24 league goals, summer recruit Charlie Austin has 10, making him the R`s top-scorer by some distance and also meaning that the former Burnley and Swindon Town forward is responsible for some 16 points on his own this term.

With 13 clean sheets in the league already, it is clear that a strong back five has been the bedrock of the Hoops` success so far this season.

Brazilian international Julio Cesar was cast aside even before the end of the previous campaign, with Redknapp admitting that former England international Rob Green would be his first-choice 'keeper in the Championship.

Right-back Danny Simpson was lured from Premier League Newcastle United on a free transfer after announcing he would not extend his deal at St James` Park beyond the end of last season.

At centre-half, Richard Dunne was tempted from Aston Villa on a free transfer too. The 34 year-old Dubliner has been a revelation at the back alongside the equally experienced Clint Hill, with the veteran duo making up one of the most experienced central defensive partnerships in the division.

No Redknapp team would be complete without a fistful of players to have played under the former Tottenham manager, and left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto is just one of four to have followed the 66 year-old to Loftus Road in the summer.

Signed on-loan from Spurs after losing his place to Danny Rose, the Cameroon international is joined at the Loft on loan by Spurs playmaker Tom Carroll.

The slight playmaker was a target for the Hornets back in the summer, but opted to follow Redknapp to Shepherds Bush on a season-long loan deal.

Niko Kranjcar, who was brought to England by Redknapp at Portsmouth in 2006, followed his manager to White Hart Lane in 2009 before moving to Dynamo Kiev after just 30 Premier League starts in three years.

Now 29, the Croatian international has linked up with Redknapp once more, this time joining on loan from the Ukrainian giants.

With Rangers flying high, it is perhaps little surprise that Redknapp has resisted the temptation to lean more heavily on some of the bigger names still on the books at the club.

Despite shifting 11 players who were part of last season`s doomed bid to avoid the drop for a second successive season, the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermaine Jenas - both England internationals no less - remain on the periphery of things at Loftus Road.

The longer the R`s keep themselves in contention for promotion, the less action those players will see.

Midfielder Joey Barton is back from suspension, so should slot back in alongside Gary O`Neil, if the former Portsmouth man recovers from a virus in time. If not, summer signing Karl Henry will sit at the base of the midfield.

Top-scorer Austin missed the 2-0 defeat at the City Ground with a hamstring complaint and is a doubt.

Predicted line-ups:

Watford: Almunia (capt); Doyley, Angella, Ekstrand; Cassetti, McGugan, Thorne, Murray, Anya; Deeney & Forestieri.

Queens Park Rangers: Green; Simpson, Dunne (capt), Hill, Assou-Ekotto; O`Neil, Barton; Phillips, Jenas, Kranjcar; Zamora.

Kick-off: 15.00

Referee: Mr N Swarbrick

Commentary: BBC Three Counties & Hornets Player

Highlights: The Football League Show (BBC1 @ 23.55)

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The Journalist

Writer: Tom Bodell Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday December 27 2013

Time: 12:00PM


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