Swansea City-Queens Park Rangers Preview
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Both Swansea City and Queens Park Rangers are ready for an encore act in the Premier League, but the casts will be notably different this time.
The two sides begin a second season at the top level Saturday at Loftus Road, with the Swans searching for rare success there at the expense of a revamped Rangers squad.
Swansea were a revelation of sorts in their first season in the Premier League, playing a free-flowing attacking game that won many plaudits. The Swans finished 11th with 47 points, but that success came with a high price as both manager Brendan Rogers and midfielder Joe Allen could not resist the siren's call of Anfield this offseason.
In Rogers' place came Michael Laudrup, the former standout Denmark midfielder who bided his time for a new coaching job after resigning from Spanish club Mallorca early last season. Laudrup, whose coaching philosophy seems a natural fit to further what Rogers built at Swansea, will be counting on offseason signing Michu and returning forward Danny Graham to be the primary goal-scorers.
"It's about building connections throughout the team," Laudrup said following his club's final tuneup, a 3-3 draw with Bundesliga club Stuttgart. "For example, I thought Michu and Danny are already connecting well and if Danny can stay fit then I think he can score 15 to 20 goals in the Premier League last season."
Michu scored a team-best 15 goals for Rayo Vallecano last season, the most of any midfielder in La Liga, and Graham led the Swans with 12.
Goals, though, have been scarce for Swansea at Loftus Road. Queens Park Rangers stormed to a 3-0 victory in the corresponding fixture last season and routed the Swans 4-0 in the Championship during the 2010-11 campaign.
The Swans have never won on Loftus Road, losing 11 matches and drawing nine others.
"It will be a tough one," said goalkeeper Michel Vorm, who was third in the Premier League with 146 saves in 2011-12. "But I think we have a better squad than last season with the new boys around and we know what to expect.
"It's always hard to play at Loftus Road, but if we play our game and work hard then we can beat anyone at home or away."
QPR just avoided the drop last term, finishing 17th with 37 points, but they are more remembered for their epic late collapse in the season finale that allowed Manchester City to win the Premier League. Roberto Mancini's side scored two goals in stoppage time to beat Rangers 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium and claim their first top-flight title in 44 years.
Manager Mark Hughes has some new blood in a bid to keep Rangers in the top flight, most notably veteran Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung and fullback Fabio da Silva, who is on loan from Old Trafford.
Between the sticks, Robert Green is with Rangers after leaving newly promoted West Ham in the offseason, and Hughes is familiar with former Blackburn Rovers product Junior Hoilett.
"Everyone is looking forward to that first game and I am probably looking forward to it more than normal because I am at a new club and this is a new start for me," Hoilett said to the team's official website earlier this month.
Yet for all the new faces, the one who is missing will be noted most. The irascible Joey Barton will begin serving a 12-match suspension for his actions in the Man City finale last season after being shown a red card, leaving a hole in the midfield after starting 31 league matches last season.
The other concern for Queens Park is their defence, which conceded 66 goals - the most of any returning squad in the Premiership.
Updated August 16, 2012