Time already running out for QPR's Harry Houdini
Redknapp will have to outdo the great escape he achieved with Portsmouth to keep QPR up
Harry Redknapp didn't exactly hit the ground running in QPR's goalless draw at Sunderland on Tuesday and his new club will have to pick up the pace quickly if they are to have any hope of dragging themselves out of trouble.
The clean sheet at Sunderland was an improvement, as it was QPR's first shutout in 24 away matches, but a first win of the season is a more urgent requirement. QPR are eight points from safety and the term "relegation six-pointer" could have been coined for their next two matches, at home to Aston Villa tonight and away to Wigan next weekend.
Beating their main relegation rivals is the most direct route to safety for Redknapp's team, who would have dragged struggling Sunderland closer to them if they could have found a winning goal on Tuesday.
With 37 points already lost by QPR this season and a maximum of 72 to play for, Redknapp's reputation as a miracle worker will be more than justified if he can keep them up. That reputation was earned principally at Portsmouth, having saved them from relegation in the 2005-06 season, but it is probable that he will have to do even better if QPR are to avoid the drop.
He took over at Fratton Park at almost exactly the same stage of the season as he does now with QPR, but he inherited a slightly healthier position. Portsmouth had 10 points from 15 games, compared with five now for QPR after 14 games, and they ended up with 38 points - one place and four points above the drop zone.
If Redknapp earns points at the same rate with QPR as he did at Portsmouth that season, he will take them to 34 points and that might not be enough. More than 34 points - and often significantly more - has been needed to avoid relegation in 15 of the 17 seasons since the Premier League was reduced to 38 games. In those 17 seasons, even 15 of the 51 relegated clubs have finished with more than 34 points.
In short, Redknapp is likely to have to surpass his achievement with Portsmouth - which is already seen as one the great escape acts in the Premier League era. He will deserve the epithet "Harry Houdini" if he pulls off an even better trick with QPR.
Don't forget, Redknapp has had his failures, too. In December 2004, he took charge at Southampton when they were third-bottom with 12 points from 16 games - a point from safety. The Saints took only another 20 points from their remaining 22 games, winning just four of them, and finished bottom of the table. Four months into the next season, Redknapp left to join Portsmouth.
It was a late upswing in form that saved Portsmouth under Redknapp, but he needs something quicker this time. A win at home to Villa tonight would inspire confidence, although Paul Lambert's young team are showing signs of improvement - their only defeats in their last six league games have been against the Manchester clubs.
Villa have lost only one out of five against bottom-half teams and look a reasonable bet on the handicap.
The best bet in the Premier League are West Brom, as they have been for most of the season so far. The bandwagon hit a bump with Wednesday's 3-1 defeat at Swansea but tonight they are back on home territory, where their record over the past nine months has been first class, and visitors Stoke are nothing like as potent on the road as they are at the Britannia stadium.
Tottenham, who are starting to develop into a decent away side, have a shot on the handicap at Fulham, while West Ham are capable of getting something at home to Chelsea in the other London derby.
The Hammers put up a good fight after conceding a first-minute goal at Manchester United on Wednesday, losing only 1-0, and have lost only one out of seven at home. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 12 league meetings with West Ham, but have yet to score under Rafa Benitez and are a risk at short odds.
Norwich, unbeaten in eight against Premier opposition in all competitions, are tempting at home to Sunderland.
1 West Brom home win Good chance to bounce back from midweek defeat
2 Watford home win Inform hosts can beat outof- form Barnsley
3 Blackburn on handicap Only away defeat was against Crystal Palace
4 Mallorca home win Excellent chance to get back on track at home
5 Freiburg on handicap Have won four of six against teams below
West Brom, Millwall, Watford, Blackburn, Mallorca, Freiburg, Lazio.
TODAY (11pm unless stated)
West Ham United vs Chelsea (8:45pm), Manchester City vs Everton, West Bromwich Albion vs Stoke City, Fulham vs Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal vs Swansea City, Liverpool vs Southampton, Queens Park Rangers vs Aston Villa, Reading vs Manchester United (1:30am Sun)
Norwich City vs Sunderland (12am Mon)