With so much attention being paid to other teams results and where it will leave the club, Queens Park Rangers have to focus on the only thing they can control - how they play for the next three matches.
The final stages of the Premier League marathon will be no easy sprint; QPR have to secure enough points to survive against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Stoke at Loftus Road and Manchester City at the Ethiad Stadium. If you told supporters a month ago that their club would dispatch Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham during the run-in after losing to Wolves, Blackburn and Bolton, they'd have called for the jackets that fasten in the back and a comfortably padded room. But here they sit, precariously close to the drop but with a legitimate chance to survive against the odds.
The work is by no means done, but with the form they've displayed of late, this team cannot be counted out.
The mettle that the Hoops showed against Tottenham was some of their finest work this season, earning them a vital three points at a critical juncture. Knowing that they were playing for their Premier League lives, the underdogs took the fight to the floundering Spurs, harrying the ball and giving no quarter to their forwards. The defence Mark Hughes hastily assembled in the waning hours of the transfer window took weeks to gel, but with the leadership of veteran Clint Hill and the skill of Taye Taiwo they are finally playing like a solid unit. They denied passing lanes and effectively shut Spurs out for ninety minutes, including the late ten-man period that they weathered comfortably.
As a whole the squad stepped their game up a serious level, from the often derided Barton who held the midfield alongside Diakite, to Jamie Mackie who spent the match abusing and out-hustling Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Danny Rose. Mackie continues to epitomise the Championship spirit and plays like a man who knows he's yet to fully earn the respect of players at this level. He doesn't get on the board often and his name might not ring out in any awards ceremonies, but he fights and runs with more heart than most of his big-money peers at other clubs. Adel Taraabt excelled throughout the match, perhaps with a bit of added initiative to remind Harry Redknapp of what he let go when Tottenham sold him to QPR. Tarbs dropped a wonderstruck free kick over the wall and away from keeper Brad Friedel for the game's only goal, hitting his target perfectly to send the Loftus Road faithful into a well deserved frenzy.
Despite the joy of the victory, the sights quickly turned back to the table and the looming fixtures for QPR and the other relegation threatened clubs. Tonight Chelsea pulled off a spectacular feat to proceed to the Champion's League final over Barcelona. QPR fans were naturally thrilled for their crosstown rivals' success, but the silver lining is that this gives the Blues another target to keep in mind while we focus on taking points off them. Their supporters will be up for the derby, but the physical and mental strain of the club's recent schedule and their packed fixture list through the next few weeks may be an opportunity to catch them off their game. Chelsea have been on a powerful roll recently, but if the R's put forth another hard-nosed effort like they did against Spurs, anything is possible this Saturday.
As for the other teams swimming in the deep end, Bolton's win over Aston Villa may not be a disaster for QPR's chances. There's no way to know how all of the pieces will fall now, and that result pulled a dreadful Villa team down into the fight with the rest of us. If West Brom give Aston Villa the kind of test they showed QPR two weeks ago, they'll have their own points problems to worry about. For the R's the key is to continue the tremendous spirit and intensity they've shown in the last few weeks. The return of Cisse and Helguson are key, and the continued improvement of the midfielders is a boon to their chances. Nothing is easy, and no one is going to give points away - but if they team keeps this level up, they'll earn their survival this season.
Come on U R'sss!