Manchester United vs. QPR (15:00)
Manchester United will be keen to recapture the form that produced nine wins from ten Premier League games heading into last week’s loss at Carrow Road. The lack of midfield creativity on display will have worried Sir Alex Ferguson, who may view the prospect of a home fixture against the league’s bottom side as welcome relief:
– Key to the Red Devils will be the return to the starting line-up of Wayne Rooney– he was sorely missed against Norwich, and recorded a faster average speed than any other United player for three consecutive games before being rested last weekend, including an average speed of 4.65 mph against Aston Villa
– Bringing on Paul Scholes at Norwich was seen as a sign of United’s lack of depth in midfield by some pundits, but the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that the veteran has played more successful passes per minute than any other league player this season, 277 in just under nine hours of pitch time.
– Michael Carrick put in the passing performance of the season against Villa two weeks ago, completing 92 passes in the opponents half. Carrick wasn’t given the time on the ball to punish Norwich in the same way, and completed only 49 passes in the Canaries half
– The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index also highlights a lack of solo on-the-ball talent at Old Trafford this season. Worryingly, just two Red Devils are among the league’s 100 players who have made the most successful dribbles this season- Antonio Valencia and Luis Nani
QPR are in urgent need of an upturn in form, picking up just four points from the twelve opening games, which has thrust QPR into a battle for their Premier League lives, and the team can’t afford a repeat of last week’s poor performance against fellow strugglers Southampton:
– The Hoops best hope of an upset will be Adel Taarabt. Almost without notice, the 23-year-old has hit 20 shots on target so far this season. Three more than Robin Van Persie has managed, Taarabt’s tally is even more impressive in light of the fact that he’s only been on the pitch for two thirds as many minutes as the Dutch striker this season.
– The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that Esteban Granero will be equally key to QPR’s afternoon. One of the few positives the team can take from the Southampton defeat was the tireless performance of Granero, who covered more miles than any of his teammates for the fourth league game in a row with a shift of 6.43 miles against Southampton.
– If the Hoops are to take advantage of David De Gea’s uncertainty in the air, they’re going to have to start playing the ball into the Spaniard’s danger areas. Jose Bosingwa is the only QPR player to have put ten crosses into the box this season- the likes of Leighton Baines and Steven Gerrard, on the other hand, have chalked up 60 apiece according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
– Ji Sung Park returns to his former club this weekend. Despite not featuring in QPR’s last three games Park was one of their hardest workers earlier in the season. Park topped the charts for distance run in four of his eight games so far this season covering a total of 46.06 miles
– Even if it goes pear-shaped for the league’s bottom club on Saturday, QPR’s fans should remember West Brom’s ‘Great Escape’ from relegation in the 2005-06 season. Eight points clear from safety at Christmas, the Baggies pipped Crystal Palace to seventeenth place on the final day of the season- all is not lost for QPR, who are only five points adrift less than a third of the way through proceedings.