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Saturday's Key Battles: QPR vs Aston Villa

QPR will come up against a strong looking Aston Villa side on Saturday with both teams looking to bounce back from pre-international break defeats. With the Villans squad filled with Premier League players we take a closer look at where the game can be won and lost at Loftus Road.

James Chester v Idrissa Sylla

With John Terry absent through injury, much of the responsibility in organising Villa’s back-line lies with James Chester. The Welsh defender has been Mr. Reliable this season and has not missed a minute of league action.

Chester, who began his career with Manchester United, has been part of a Villa defence that has only conceded 15 goals this season, with just Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United shipping less. Chester’s main strengths are his composure and reading of the game but his partnership with Terry has been keen to Villa’s recent success so it will be interesting to see how he copes in a different pair.

Sylla, who’s enjoying a hot streak, will hope he can use his clever movement and physical qualities to get the better of the Villa defence and in particular Chester. The Guinean powerhouse seems to come alive inside the box as he showed with three goals in October all from close range and he will be hoping for more of the same this month.

Conor Hourihane v Luke Freeman

A battle of two of the best midfield technicians in the league. Hourihane, who scored an outstanding free-kick for Barnsley against the R’s last season, has finally established himself in Steve Bruce’s midfield after spending much of the last campaign on the bench.

The Republic of Ireland international has a nice balance to his game. Capable of getting stuck in and doing the dirty work. The centre midfielder is also a lovely passer of the ball and somewhat of a dead-ball specialist who contributes with his fair share of goals.

Coming up directly against him will likely be Rangers’ most creative player. Luke Freeman has six assists this season and opponents have struggled to cope with his quick feet and the positions he gets himself into just behind the midfield lines. If the R’s can continue getting the ball to him then that will increase the chances of a positive outcome on Saturday.

Robert Snodgrass v Jake Bidwell

A year ago Snodgrass was one of Hull’s key players in the Premier League and on the verge of a £10million January transfer to West Ham. But things didn’t quite go to plan in East London for the Scotsman and now, much to Villa’s advantage, he finds himself playing in the Championship.

Snodgrass has developed into Villa’s chief creative force and compliments his more pacey attacking team-mates extremely well. The midfielder looks to be enjoying his football again and when on form contributes so much to a team’s attack with his vision, dribbling and shooting.

He will likely operate from the right side of midfield which means a dual with Jake Bidwell awaits. Bidwell has been a really solid performer for Rangers this season and has provided some stability in the left wing back position. Arguably excelling more in the defensive side of the game which has given QPR a good balance and he will likely relish the test of facing one of the league’s best players.