Memories will be surrounding the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as Manchester City, reigning Premier League champions, take on Queens Park Rangers. This fixture last season was the game that City dramatically won to bring them their first Premier League triumph. QPR narrowly survived on that day and both sides have taken different paths this season.
City have started the season positively with an unbeaten start, but have seemed shaky in a new formation by manager Roberto Mancini. The decision to play three centre-backs is strange, but City have still not lost and may keep the same formation against QPR. Mancini’s side were lucky to draw against Liverpool at Anfield last weekend and relied on defensive errors to gift them a point. City have been behind 2-1 in their last three league games and will be looking to keep a clean sheet against Rangers at Eastlands.
Sergio Aguero, the goal hero of last season’s dramatic game with QPR, is still missing with a knee injury suffered against Southampton on the opening day. The Argentinian is joined on the sidelines by defender Micah Richards, who has an ankle problem, but Mancini may have Gareth Barry back after a lower abdomen tear. City will be desperate to get their form back from last season and in Carlos Tevez, there is an in-form striker who is keen to right his wrongs at Eastlands.
QPR have spent their summer involved in more transfer negotiations with former club captain Joey Barton expected to leave the club and join French side Marseille. Barton’s red card and actions against City last season resulted in a 12 match ban and he has been in trouble with the club ever since, publicly criticising manager Mark Hughes. Rangers also have started poorly with a 5-0 hammering by Swansea on the opening day and then a lucky 1-1 draw against Norwich last weekend.
Bobby Zamora played in the midweek win over Walsall despite a head wound and could play against City this weekend. Hughes has signed experienced goalkeeper Julio Cesar from Inter Milan and are also interested in Real Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero, as well as defender Ricardo Carvalho. QPR are spending big money in their pursuit of establishing themselves in the Premier League, but the team spirit needs to improve dramatically.
Rangers have several attacking threats in Junior Hoilett, Adel Taarabt and Djibril Cisse that could worry City, but the overall class of the champions should see them through comfortably. Hughes is desperate for victory against his old club and the manager who replaced him at the Etihad Stadium will not be keen to let his side’s unbeaten home league record fall at the 21st game.