Crunch time for EPL strugglers

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iol spt mar8 Redknapp REUTERS The importance of staying in the Premier League was not lost on Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp on Friday with the basement side eyeing rare back-to-back wins. Photo by: Eddie Keogh

London - The importance of staying in the Premier League was not lost on Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp on Friday with the basement side eyeing rare back-to-back wins.

QPR, who host 14th-placed Sunderland on Saturday, are four points adrift of safety and Redknapp is eyeing another win after last week's against Southampton - only their third in the league all season.

Having just survived on the final day of last season QPR face an even more pressing relegation battle this time, especially with the Premier League's new domestic television rights deal worth one billion pounds ($1.50 billion) per year.

“We need back-to-back wins. I think it was World War One when we last did that,” said a jovial Redknapp, who has galvanised QPR since his appointment in November.

“If we can do that it puts us right back in the picture,” Redknapp told the club's website (www.qpr.co.uk).

“I've been optimistic all along and I still feel we'll stay up. We're ready to go. We're ready to give everything.”

Redknapp said keeper Julio Cesar and forward Bobby Zamora were injury doubts but given their importance to the team they would be given until the last minute to prove their fitness.

Opposite number Martin O'Neill said Redknapp had reversed QPR's fortunes since his arrival.

“QPR is a difficult issue. They will be fighting for everything having won last week. It will be a monumental battle,” the Northern Irishman told Sunderland's website (www.safc.com).

O'Neill, whose side sit six points clear of relegation and only three behind 10th-placed Fulham in a congested bottom half of the table, is confident Sunderland will stay in the Premier League going on recent performances.

“I believe we shouldn't have been beaten in any of our games played recently, including the one against Arsenal,” said O'Neill.

Another relegation crunch this weekend involves second-bottom Reading at home to 18th-placed Aston Villa, also on Saturday.

Reading boss Brian McDermott, whose side are three points ahead of QPR and a point behind Villa and 17th-placed Wigan Athletic, was less confident of survival than Redknapp but has urged his players to give their all for the remaining 10 games.

“At the end of every season as a manager you never want any regrets,” McDermott told the club's website (www.readingfc.co.uk).

“I want to look back on this season and know that whatever happens we have done what we had to do and we have taken the game to the opposition.

“I don't need to emphasise anything about this game to the players. They know how important it is for them, their families, our club and most importantly for our fans.”

Reading were cruelly relegated from the top division in 2008 when their goal difference was three goals worse than Fulham's.

This time around Reading (-20) have the best goal difference of the bottom four clubs as they bid to retain their top flight status having secured promotion last season.

Southampton, who released their financial results on Friday which revealed a net profit of nearly one million pounds ($1.50 million) in the six months to the end of December, can ease away from the drop zone if they win at Norwich on Saturday. – Reuters


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