West Brom-Queens Park Rangers Preview
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Having appeared to have righted themselves after their worst run of form this season, West Bromwich Albion tries to pick up three vital away points to its European hopes on Boxing Day when it plays Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
The Baggies (9-3-6) have been one of the biggest surprises in the Premier League, picking up points in 10 of their first 13 matches and climbing as high as third before crashing back to reality with a four-match winless streak that saw them score just one goal in that span while notching just one point.
However, West Brom got back to their winning ways by rallying to a 2-1 victory over Norwich City on Saturday, getting a winning header in the 82nd minute by Romelu Lukaku.
"It was a great cross and I just had to put my head on it," said Lukaku, who is on a season-long loan from Chelsea, to West Brom's official website. "Today was a game we won with character, but in our next game we must play better football, otherwise we will get punished for sure."
The Baggies, along with Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur, have 30 points, but they trail all three teams due to an inferior goal differential.
Lukaku has a team-high six goals for West Brom despite starting just five of 16 matches he's appeared. The 19-year-old also has team highs of 18 shots on goal and 32 overall, and has tallied three times in his last five road matches.
As West Brom continues punching above its weight in a bid for a European spot for next season, Harry Redknapp will be spending the rest of the season simply trying to keep Queens Park Rangers (1-7-10) in the top flight. The Rangers suffered their first loss in five matches under his stewardship Saturday at St. James' Park, falling 1-0 to Newcastle United on a late goal.
Despite the loss, Redknapp took some positives from his defence, which again proved solid and has conceded only five goals since the coaching change.
"We fought for our lives, defended well and gave it everything we had," Redknapp told the club's official website. "I felt we just lacked that little bit of quality in the right areas to win the game."
That lacking bit of quality usually takes place in the offensive third for QPR, who are tied with Stoke City and Aston Villa with a league-low 15 goals. The Rangers have just seven points and seven goals from eight matches at Loftus Road, though they did break their duck there Dec. 15 with a 2-1 win over Fulham.
West Brom have taken points in all three matches between the teams dating back to last season with two wins and a draw. The Baggies posted a 3-2 victory at The Hawthorns in the reverse fixture Oct. 6 as James Morrison and Zoltan Gera staked West Brom to a 2-0 lead in the fist 22 minutes. QPR made a late push for a point following an injury-time goal by Esteban Granero but could not find an equaliser.
The Rangers were held to a 1-1 draw in the corresponding fixture last season as Shane Long scored in the 81st minute for West Brom, canceling out a first-half strike by Heidar Helguson.
Updated December 24, 2012