QUEENS Park Rangers take on Norwich City at Carrow Road for what is the final game of the Sky Bet Championship season.
Last week’s victory over Nottingham Forest means QPR are now completely safe from relegation whilst Norwich have fallen too far behind to have any chance of reaching the play-offs. Effectively this game is a dead rubber, however a victory for the home side would guarantee a top eight finish whilst Rangers could potentially end the season in 15th if they were to win here and other results go the way of the side from W12.
After the first 15 games of the season Norwich were tipped by most to make a quick return to the Premier League, with the East Anglian outfit briefly threatening to break into the top two. But five successive defeats in October and November really brought a halt to their season.
Whilst still picking up results, their form was not consistent enough to see them maintain the pace of the top six and resulted in the dismissal of Alex Neil who was in charge for just over two years.
Alan Irvine has since come in on an interim basis and done a fine job – leading them to 8th place but with the teams around them also upping their performances it means the Canaries will have to settle for a top ten finish this season.
The disappointment amongst the Carrow Road faithful will be that this is a squad very much equipped to return to English football’s top tier. Norwich have a number of players in their squad with Premier League and high end Championship experience and have therefore not met their expectations this season.
Rangers will be hoping a disappointing campaign can end with three points. Despite a bright start the R’s couldn’t kick on under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who was relieved from his duties in November. Ian Holloway has since returned to the club and the squad now looks very different from what it did against Leeds on the opening weekend. The last few weeks have highlighted that there’s still plenty for Ollie to do on the training ground but he will be encouraged by the performances his team showed throughout February and March and hope to use that as a catalyst for next season.
The last time the two teams met was Ollie’s first game back which ended up in a 2-1 victory for the R’s thanks to goals from Conor Washington and Sebastian Polter. Whilst QPR secured their status in the league last week, Norwich threw away a three goal lead at Elland Road and will be determined to end the season on a high in front of their home fans.
QPR: Grant Hall will again miss out owing to injury and Yeni Ngbakoto, Jamie Mackie and Idrissa Sylla are all major doubts for the Carrow Road clash. Jordan Cousins also remains side-lined.
Norwich: Norwich will have both Wes Hoolahan and Alex Tettey available on Sunday after missing the draw against Leeds last week. Nelson Oliveira has been ill but should train ahead of the game, though Steven Naismith is unavailable through suspension following his late red card at Elland Road. Of the players set for release at the end of their contracts, only John Ruddy and Steven Whittaker have trained in preparation for the match.
Predicted line up: Ruddy, Pinto, Bennett, Martin, Dijks, Dorrans, Howson, Murphy, Pritchard, Jerome, Oliveira
Key Player: Alex Pritchard – Norwich’s creator in chief has been in excellent form of late and seems to be flourishing under a more central role.
PRE MATCH TALK
Ian Holloway: “We want to go to Norwich and give a good account of ourselves, we beat them in my first game back here and I want to beat them again. I want to sign off the season in strong fashion. I go out to win every single game as manager. We were clinical last weekend – and we'll need to be clinical again against Norwich.”
Alan Irvine: “They will obviously come in a relaxed manner. It's not as important a game as it might have been had they not got that win last week but they will be a threat. They will come here looking to get a good result to finish off their season on a high. It will be the usually difficult Championship game. I've come across Ian (Holloway) a lot. He was manager of Blackpool when I was manager of Preston and we go back a long way before that. He's someone who I like and respect in terms of what he's done as a manager over the years. He's done a really good job at Queens Park Rangers.”
QPR win: 4/1
QPR first goal scorer: Idrissa Sylla 7/1
Norwich first goal scorer: Cameron Jerome 7/2
LAST TIME OUT
QPR 2-1 Norwich - Championship, Saturday 19th November 2016
QPR goal-scorers: Conor Washington, Sebastian Polter
Norwich goal-scorers: Steven Naismith
HEAD TO HEAD
(In all competitions)
QPR wins: 39
Referee: Tim Robinson
Assistant Referees: Matthew Mcgrath and Nigel Lugg
Fourth official: Gavin Ward
Staying largely dry with variable, often large amounts of cloud, but also with sunny periods expected. 3% chance of rain.
SUNDAY’S OTHER LEAGUE FIXTURES
All kick-offs midday.
Aston Villa v Brighton & Hove Albion
Brentford v Blackburn Rovers
Bristol City v Birmingham City
Burton Albion v Reading
Huddersfield Town v Cardiff City
Newcastle United v Barnsley
Norwich City v Queens Park Rangers
Nottingham Forest v Ipswich Town
Rotherham United v Derby County
Sheffield Wednesday v Fulham
Wigan Athletic v Leeds United
Wolves v Preston North End