Ainsworth: QPR will run Rovers close this time
FORMER QPR star Gareth Ainsworth has promised to remain neutral when Rangers take on his hometown club in the FA Cup this weekend.
The Wycombe Wanderers veteran is longing to meet the winners of the Ewood Park tie in the next round – and believes the Rs are more than capable of springing a surprise on Saturday.
Ainsworth came on as a substitute when QPR lost 3-0 to Blackburn in a third round tie in 2006, but the 37-year-old expects a much closer contest this time around.
“I remember scoring against Burnley the week before and I thought ‘that’s set me up nicely’, but unfortunately Ollie put me on the bench for that game,” Ainsworth recalled.
“I’d love to get the chance again, five years later. I’m a big Blackburn fan but QPR have been a massive part of my life as well and I’m not going to be cheering for either side.
“Rangers seem to be in the ascendancy and it really could go either way now – if they do win the game it wouldn’t be a massive shock. For us to get through and be drawn against the winners of that tie would be a dream come true for me.
“My team-mates at Wycombe all thought I was a bit strange when the third round draw was made and they were all talking about getting Man United or Chelsea away. I said Blackburn or QPR, that’ll do for me!”
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Wycombe have to wait until next Tuesday for their own third round tie – they host League Two rivals in either Lincoln or Hereford, who meet in a delayed second round clash at the weekend.
Blackburn and Rangers, meanwhile, are both expected to employ a degree of squad rotation for Saturday’s game, but Ainsworth has no doubts about who he would pick to try and clinch a fourth round spot.
“Obviously Adel Taarabt, on his day, can turn it on – he’s one of the most skilful players I’ve played with or against and if he’s on form, he could make the difference,” said Ainsworth.
“Alejandro Faurlin’s another key player. I got to know him because I was the only one in the dressing-room who could speak Spanish – we always had a good affinity and I’m glad to see him doing so well.
“For Rovers, Morten Gamst Pedersen is the stand-out player – his set-pieces will be something to look out for and he’s another one who can win a game on his own.
“In a strange way, Blackburn might be taking it more seriously. Everyone wants to make a good impression on the new owners and they’ll feel that, if they get through, they can go on and do well in the FA Cup.
“All QPR want is to get into the Premier League and this will probably be their second priority. But I just know that if we can get through I’ve got a chance of playing one of the teams that mean a lot to me.”
Rangers’ defensive options for Saturday are limited, with Matthew Connolly serving the second game of a two-match suspension following his red card at Norwich on New Year’s Day.
Kyle Walker’s loan has ended, while Fitz Hall is struggling to shake off an Achilles problem and that could bring about a rare start for left-back Gary Borrowdale.
Striker Antonio German, who was named among the substitutes on Monday, is ineligible for the tie after appearing for Southend in an earlier round while on loan.