Then fourth of this season’s 20 London derbies takes place on Sunday with QPR making the short 13 mile hop to White Hart Lane to take on in-form Tottenham Hotspur.
Spurs are in cracking form at the moment having won six of their last seven league games and they easily dispatched Blackburn last week with Rafael Van Der Vaart scoring twice to secure a 2-1 win. The Dutchman has been in superb form this season scoring in four consecutive games despite being used in a variety of attacking roles. His ability to play behind Emmanuel Adebayor and across the midfield have proved indispensable as Harry Redknapp continues to try and find a permanent role for the former Real Madrid man. Luka Modric has also been in sparkling form this season pulling the strings from midfield with the defensive minded Scott Parker acting as the perfect mould giving him the platform to showcase his talents.
The display at Ewood Park last week was as comprehensive as you like and Redknapp will be expecting the same this from his squad. Their record in London derbies at the Lane is an impressive one with their win against Arsenal a few weeks ago making it 16 without defeat on home soil. They’ve lost only once 20 games at home with that defeat being a 5-1 thrashing off Manchester City although it hasn’t stopped them equalling their best ever start to Premier League season with 16 points from eight games placing them in the top five.
Neil Warnocks side finally won at home last week at the fifth time of asking beating fellow Londoners Chelsea 1-0 at Loftus Road in a tempestuous tussle. Their task was made easier after the Blues had two men sent off and they’ll need to be on top of their game to overcome in form Spurs. They don’t have the best of records against their neighbours having failed to beat them in both fixtures during their final Premier League campaign before relegation at the culmination of the 1995/96 season.
One man Warnock will be looking to for some ingenuity on Sunday will be Adel Taarabt who faces his former club for the first time in the top flight. The Moroccan has failed to hit the heights of last seasons title winning Championship campaign with uncertainty over his future continuing to cast a shadow over whether his motivated or not. 11 games without a goal and some insipid displays has seen his stock plummet dramatically and Warnock will need to make a decision as to whether his former captain is up to the challenge of taking on Spurs. Scoring goals has been a major problem for the R’s with summer signing Jay Bothroyd yet to score although Heidar Helguson has come into the side an scored in consecutive games – the first time that has happened in the top flight since Kevin Gallen in 1996. They’ll need to score first on Sunday if they are to avoid defeat losing in three of the four games they have fallen behind.
Rafael Van Der Vaart – Questions were asked about the Dutchman’s role in the side during pre-season but goals in his last four games have made him a key member of the squad once more. Whether it be in midfield or just off the front man Van Der Vaart can inflict pain on any side with his intelligent movement and ability to be in the right place at the right time.
Joey Barton – It will be a battle of former Newcastle teammates Barton and Parker at White Hart Lane. The Scouser has been superb since signing from the Geordies in August and will be key to snuffing out his counterparts threat from the centre of midfield. Expect both to be in each other faces from the get go on Sunday.