Neil Warnock Image 1
Blackburn Rovers v QPR Preview
UNLESS he is bluffing or has a sudden change of heart, we can expect Neil Warnock to make wholesale changes for Saturday's FA Cup tie at Blackburn Rovers.
The Rangers boss fielded a weakened side in the Carling Cup and will again not risk exhausting key players following the frenetic Christmas fixture programme.
A measure of his thinking was his threat to 'punish' Kaspars Gorkss and Clint Hill for their mistakes against Bristol City by refusing them the afternoon off.
That should mean starts for current fringe players like Martin Rowlands, Leon Clarke and Hogan Ephraim against a Rovers side on a high after beating Liverpool 3-1 in midweek.
That will dismay some Rs fans who would dearly love to see a first FA Cup tie win for a decade and the chance to test their team's readiness to take on Premiership opposition.
But Warnock – a semi-finalist in the competition with Sheffield United in 2003 – has the bigger promotion picture in mind.
“I can't see certain payers playing five games in 12 days and if I have a choice, the fifth one is the least important to me at the moment,” Warnock said.
“We will go and try and win the game, but it's not a priority.
“We'll have a chance, whatever happens. We've got a good squad and I would definitely want to rest some in that game.
“If I was in mid-table in the Championship, I would try and win it (the FA Cup). I still think it's a magic cup and it's winnable,” Warnock said.
“But I want to give players like Bruno Andrade a go in this one. I'd like to think he'll be involved. He's a lovely player technique wise and has great heart for a little lad. We've been really pleased with him.
“I think Blackburn will be a good game for us to go and look at. They are like QPR – not massive but one that can sustain Premier league football.
“They have been there for years and they've built a solid base there. It will be good to go there without any points at stake.
“They might rest players as well – that's what big squads are for – and that's why we've got an opportunity of winning, whatever team we put out.”
Recent history is against Rangers. They have only beaten Rovers once in their last 10 attempts – the last occasion being 11 years ago. They were beaten 3-0 at Ewood Park in a third round tie five years ago, when Craig Bellamy scored twice.