Two months ago, the match between Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers was circled on most Tottenham fans' calendars. Not necessarily because the teams are evenly matched – they're not – but because of the narrative that had swirled around QPR ever since Harry Redknapp took over the London side.
Redknapp has taken his dodgy knee and departed, leaving the West London club in the hands of former Spurs assistant Chris Ramsey, but there's still an element of narrative interest that surrounds Spurs' trip to Loftus Road on Saturday. QPR is littered with the detritus of past Spurs players: Sandro, Adel Taraabt, Niko Kranjcar, Bobby Zamora, and Steven Caulker are all former Spurs and presently feature heavily for the Hoops. There will be plenty of familiar faces in the QPR lineup on Saturday for Tottenham fans.
Unfortunately, QPR are still in a world of trouble: their squad is aging, overpriced, underperforming, and in real danger of dropping out of the Premier League by season's end. Should that happen, the consequences could be catastrophic for Rangers: the club is reportedly £177m in debt, and should they drop the possibility that they could "pull a Leeds" is real and acute.
If QPR beat Spurs, they will climb out of the relegation zone (to be replaced by Tim Sherwood and Aston Villa) and maybe, just maybe, get a little momentum with winnable matches against Crystal Palace, Everton, and West Brom upcoming. Chris Ramsey knows this, and expect QPR to give Spurs their best shot tomorrow. QPR is quite possibly playing for the future of their club.
It's too bad they're a little banged up at present. Sandro has returned to the side and is apparently raring to go against his old club, but Nedum Onuoha is a game-time decision, Darnell Furlong & Mauricio Isla are both out with injuries, and captain Joey Barton is still suspended.
For Spurs, no fresh injury concerns, which means the problem is once again less who can play but who will play. I'm giving up on predicting lineups after Mauricio Pochettino abandoned rotation completely the last time out, but it wouldn't shock me to see players like Erik Lamela, Federico Fazio, and Ben Davies back in the side.
In fact, much of the drama could come from having the two most in-form English strikers – Charlie Austin and Harry Kane – on the pitch at the same time. Last time out Spurs scored four goals in only five shots on target en route to a 4-0 dismantling of QPR at White Hart Lane. Nobody expects the same level of equivocation from Rangers this time around, and Spurs should probably be wary of Austin's goal scoring ability, considering the porous nature of their current back line. But even so, Spurs didn't get to where they are and QPR where they are for no reason. This is a game Spurs should, on paper, win comfortably.
Spurs' win over Swansea didn't gain them any ground after the entire top seven won in mid-week, so an away victory against a relegation threatened side should be considered a must-win match if they wish to remain in the conversation over Champions League qualification. After this match the schedule eases for Spurs; they get eight days rest before an anticipated match at Old Trafford. A two-match winning streak would certainly give them a boost heading into a "six-pointer" against United.
QPR vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Date: Saturday, March 7, 2015
Time: 3:00 p.m. GMT (10:00 a.m. ET)
Location: Loftus Road, London, England
Weather: Clear skies, 60º F
Television: NBC Sports Network (USA), not televised in the UK, Sportsnet (Canada), Fox Sports 4 (Australia)