I think reading the “Captain’s Column” in the matchday programme will be my first priority for this one. Joey Barton’s really stoked it up ahead of the game with his stark assessment that:
“This is more than a game of football now. The next eight games govern our futures”.
Dramatic but maybe the right galvanising words for a group of players who must find the balance between fighting spirit and keeping cool heads in their mission to stay in the Premier League.
Djibril Cisse didn’t at Sunderland last week – sent off for what even his manager Mark Hughes called “a crazy challenge” – and he’ll now have to sit out half the remaining matches.
Barton himself sat out the action at the Stadium of Light as an unused substitute but I’d be surprised if he didn’t get selected to face Arsenal – opposition he has history against from his time at Newcastle. Stamped on by Alex Song and flicked in the face by Gervinho on the opening day of this season, he’s upset Arsene Wenger in the past with strong (but deemed fair) tackles on Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri.
Despite that, Wenger admires the QPR captain’s talents enough to have reportedly held conversations with him last summer over a possible move to Arsenal.
The Gunners are firing on all cylinders as they bid for an eighth successive league win. They last dropped points at Bolton on 1 February, and are now favourites to hold off Spurs and Chelsea to finish third AND as London’s top team again. It’s incredible to think that only a few short weeks ago the phone-ins were getting calls from some Gooners wanting Wenger out!
Arsenal have never beaten QPR at Loftus Road in four Premier League visits, but won 6-0 the last time they visited for an FA Cup tie more than 11 years ago. If not by such a grand margin, they’re odds on to win this time too – and for that not to happen Rangers will have to summon up the spirit they found for the final 15 minutes against Liverpool in their last home game.
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