It’s still very early in the Premier League season, so it seems ludicrous to label a game a "relegation six pointer".
But when Queens Park Rangers entertain Southampton on Saturday, both sides will be determined to try to belatedly kick-start their season and gain an early advantage over their rivals, knowing that three points in November is just as valuable as three points in May.
More eyes will be on the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham, but this game in the west of the city could prove to be the more entertaining of the two fixtures.
Even though the Saints currently have one more point than last-place QPR, the visitors are strong favourites to finish bottom of the league.
One of the most vital components of Southampton over the past three years has been striker Rickie Lambert, who was signed for £1 million following their relegation to League One in 2009. It’s no fluke that this signing coincided with some strong years for the club.
After missing out on the playoffs in Lambert’s first season – thanks to a 10-point deduction due to their precarious financial situation – they subsequently won automatic promotion the year after, and then emulated the feat last season when they were promoted to the Premier League. They earned topflight status in style too, finishing just short of top spot and outscoring all of their rivals.
However, despite their free-scoring 2011-12 campaign, there were some concerns going into this season. Many cited a lack of width in the side, and there was no winger signed over the summer. Lambert has been the top goal-scorer in League Two, League One and the Championship, and while it’s romantic to believe he can repeat this feat in the top tier, he could struggle to keep pace if Southampton continue to rely on their forward and not offer a "plan B" down the flanks. Many fans of the Saints will argue that "plan A" could be enough though, with current champions Manchester City often lining up in a narrow formation.
Much of what was good in last year’s campaign came through midfielder Adam Lallana and Lambert. It has proved a fruitful partnership in the Premier League thus far, with Lallana scoring one goal and earning four assists, and Lambert scoring four and setting up three.
The 2012-13 attacking performance of Nigel Adkins’s side is similar to that of a mid-table team. While their 4-1 victory over Aston Villa proved a false dawn, it did showcase the sublime passing of Gaston Ramirez, and the intelligence of Lallana and Steven Davis.
With the attack currently performing admirably, the problem that Adkins is desperately trying to address is his leaky defence. It’s the worst backline in the league, by quite a long way.
West Ham United, who finished below Southampton in the second tier last year, concede an average of a goal a game; the Saints are currently averaging a 2.6 goal disadvantage each game. Saturday’s opponents QPR almost concede a whole goal less.
Queens Park Rangers’ deficiencies, somewhat surprisingly, start in attack. Despite boasting the talented yet troublesome Adel Taarabt in central midfield, the pace of Canadian Junior Hoilett on the wing, and much Premier League experience going forward in their older contingent of Park Ji-Sung, Andrew Johnson, Bobby Zamora, Djibril Cissé and Shaun Wright-Phillips, they are second only to Sunderland in goals scored.
The way money was splurged over the summer by manager Mark Hughes, with no discernible improvement as a result, makes his position tenuous in the English capital. If you believe the tabloids, the spending could continue as Hughes looks to entice Nicolas Anelka back to England from China in a bid to improve his misfiring team.
Perhaps it’s the dealings in the transfer market that have unsettled the squad. Goalkeeper Robert Green was signed from West Ham following Paddy Kenny’s move to Leeds United, and duly took the number one shirt. However, after just two league games Julio Cesar was brought in from Inter Milan, and Green’s third game, a 3-1 loss at Manchester City, was the last time he played.
The mistakes that have been made by either camp could make for a fascinating game at Loftus Road this Saturday. Players are out to make a point in a game with plenty at the stake, and with the impressive attack and leaky defence of Southampton, it has every chance of being a high-scoring affair.