Last season’s surprise candidates Swansea City will open their second ever Premier League campaign with a trip to Loftus Road and a fixture against Queens Park Rangers. For QPR, the name of their game is to improve on last season’s performance which nearly saw them relegated on a historic final day away at Manchester City.
QPR were the victims of their own downfall last season with red cards towards the end of the season costing them dearly. Mark Hughes will need to erase the ill-discipline in his side, which sees him start the season without Joey Barton. The midfielder was fined six weeks’ wages and stripped of his captaincy by the club following a 12 game ban by the Football Association after his clashes with Manchester City players on the final day of the season. Once again this summer, QPR have brought in plenty of players in an attempt to cement themselves as a certified Premier League side.
Samba Diakite’s loan spell last season impressed Hughes and he has signed the midfielder from Nancy for £3.5m. That has been backed up by Park Ji-Sung from Manchester United, Junior Hoilett from Blackburn Rovers, Robert Green from West Ham United, Andrew Johnson from Fulham, Ryan Nelsen from Tottenham and Fabio from Manchester United on a loan deal. Paddy Kenny has left the club to join former manager Neil Warnock at Leeds, so Green will be a straight swap for Kenny.
Swansea came up through the playoffs for their first Premier League campaign and took a different approach to QPR, who were champions in the Championship in 2010/11. Brendan Rodgers’ brand of attacking football and possession won plenty of fans across the country and the Swans picked up some major scalps at the Liberty Stadium. They will have to use Michael Laudrup’s ethos this season after the former Danish international replaced Rodgers as manager. Rodgers switched to Anfield to take charge of Liverpool and took midfielder Joe Allen with him on a £15m deal.
Laudrup has made relatively small-scale signings in Jose Manuel Flores, Michu and Villarreal midfielder Jonathan de Guzman on loan. Former Barcelona and Real Madrid winger Laudrup, lost out on Gylfi Sigurdsson, who chose to move to Tottenham. Swansea now have a tough act to follow up from last season’s Premier League heroics and Laudrup, despite experience in La Liga, has never tasted the Premier League.
Swansea may have lost Allen and Sigurdsson, but their front trio of Scott Sinclair, Danny Graham and Nathan Dyer were impressive last season. QPR will be wary of Swansea’s attacking talent, but do have the quality to get past the Welsh side and their talented goalkeeper Michel Vorm.