Aston Villa will host Queens Park Rangers at Villa Park Saturday in a matchup between two of this season’s worst teams. While this may not seem an intriguing match on paper, it may just be one of the most competitive and exciting matches of the weekend.
With 27 points, Aston Villa currently sits 17th in the table, three points ahead of 18th place Wigan Athletic and just four points ahead of Reading (19th) and QPR (20th). Saturday’s match will go a long way in deciding the fate of both Villa and QPR, as three points would mean the world to either side. While teams like Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea strive for the title and a Champions League spot; the equivalent for teams like Villa and QPR is staying in the Premiership. For these teams, relegation will result in losing players, losing money, and potentially see the club fall into a cyclical spell of mediocrity. Therefore, Saturday’s match will be played with high intensity and with a high level of urgency as both clubs fight for survival.
Aston Villa has performed decently lately, beating Reading, earning a draw against Everton, and narrowly losing to Arsenal and Manchester City. After a disappointing loss to Millwall in the fourth round of the FA Cup, Villa has responded well, playing some of their best football of the season. They have kept their heads above the relegation zone for several weeks now, but as the end of the season gets closer and closer, the lights get brighter and the pressure builds. Villa will need their best players to perform in the waning weeks of the season and with matches against Chelsea and Manchester United still to come, this weekend’s match against QPR becomes that much more important.
For QPR, manager Harry Redknapp has his team playing better in recent weeks despite their position in the table. Rangers have tallied back-to-back wins against Southampton and Sunderland and will be looking to continue their streak on Saturday. The team has been flowing well and scoring some amazing goals that has kept them within range of survival. A win this weekend could see QPR out of the relegation zone for the first time in weeks, but a win at Villa Park with a motivated home crowd is not going to be easy.
Let’s take a look at the two key battles to watch for in Saturday’s match:
Christian Benteke vs. Christopher Samba
This is an easy one and looks at Villa’s best striker against QPR’s best defender. Two big strong players who play with power and directness will collide on multiple occasions on Saturday and it is sure to be fun to watch. Benteke has seen a lot of success this season scoring 16 goals and dishing 8 assists in 29 matches this season. His ability to strike from distance, win head balls, and hold up the ball puts him among the best in the league and his size and strength make him a nightmare to defend. Fortunately for QPR, recent signing Christopher Samba has the size and strength to compete with Benteke and the composure to defend him for 90 minutes. Look for these two players to have a big say in the outcome of Saturday’s match.
Loic Remy vs. Matthew Lowton
This matchup looks at QPR’s best striker against arguably Villa’s best, and clearly most consistent defender. Matthew Lowton has started 36 matches this season for Villa, which is tops on the team. At 23 years old, he brings poise and surprising experience to a team in dire need of both heading into the last stretch of the season. His ability to play out from the back is impressive and his size gives him a big advantage on set pieces. However, his opponent on Saturday has a weapon that he does not; speed. Loic Remy was signed by QPR recently and has given them a speedy striker presence that they haven’t seen before. In four matches, Remy has already scored three goals and has shown that his move from France could be what saves QPR in the end. It will be interesting to see how Lowton plays Remy considering the pace and finishing ability that the French striker possesses.
QPR stuns Villa 2-1