Mark Hughes, the Queen's Park Rangers manager, said yesterday that his team will face a severe examination of their survival credentials when they face Liverpool at Loftus Road tonight. However, it is a test he expects them to handle.
Hughes said: "Going up against anybody at home, we need to set the tone and start dictating to the opposition. We did fine against Everton last time out – I thought we deserved to win that game. I think a similar performance, with a bit more luck, will be enough."
Hughes added: "It may be difficult for Liverpool to reach the teams above them. But they'll give it a good crack because there's a demand on their club to be successful. They've got a huge European pedigree that they obviously want to maintain and be a part of. Their drive and ambition will always be there.
"I saw them on Sunday and thought they did well against a Stoke side that caused them a few problems. They eventually got the job done. We know that they're a very accomplished side and have a lot of talent within their group. They can mix things up; given the personnel, they've got lots of options."
Hughes confirmed that midfielder Adel Taarabt was available for selection after missing the defeat at Bolton earlier this month through injury: "Adel will be OK. He had four or five days with the physios, but he's back training now."
Kenny Dalglish's biggest problem at Liverpool has been their lack of consistency. Last Tuesday his team ended a three-match losing streak with a 3-0 win in the Merseyside derby, but with 10 games remaining in the league the manager knows they have to put a good run together if they are to stand a chance of closing the 10-point gap on fourth-placed Arsenal.
The FA Cup quarter-final win over Stoke on Sunday has boosted their confidence but they cannot afford to lose momentum with a bad result at Loftus Road. "It always helps when you are consistent – the best teams are always consistent and we want to get there," said Dalglish. "It has been a fantastic effort and they have a lot to play for between now and the end of the season.
"Everyone has shown they can take pride in their own level of performance and as along as they are playing [in the team] they will work very hard to get a result. You could see by the way the boys went about their work during the [Stoke] game that they wanted to win and that is really pleasing. We have got to be applying ourselves properly between now and the end of the season."
Liverpool are likely to be without the injured Glen Johnson, Craig Bellamy and Daniel Agger tonight.