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Manchester United
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Queens Park Rangers on the brink ahead of Manchester City trip

Manchester City have become a symbolic club in QPR's recent history and this weekend should be no different with defeat possibly resulting in relegation and victory prolonging the agony of their slim survival hopes.

Still City fans still share the videos of that incredible Sergio Aguero goal that won the 2011-12 Premier League title on the final day and Rangers, thanks to results away from the Etihad, clung to top-flight life for one more season and the financial largesse they once again copped before frittering it away.

Rangers have a trio former City players and for a couple of them it would be fitting to get one rare highlight to take away from this season. Nedum Onuoha is suspended for the match against the side that nurtured him through their academy but that may not be the worst thing for Rangers as he has struggled in that position in recent weeks.

The two ex-City men who might rise to the occasion are Richard Dunne and Joey Barton; Rangers' most reliable stalwarts in this disappointing campaign. The older a player gets the longer it is supposed to take for them to recover from injury but Dunne has defied his critics and probably medical science this season by returning from a serious knee injury to give Rangers hope.

When the former City captain hobbles past journalists in the mixed zone after matches, his knees and ankles look on the verge of collapse and his voice is hoarse but just days later the 35-year-old is wrestling against some of the world's best strikers and holding his own.

In the 2-2 home fixture against City in November, Dunne was very unlucky as Aguero used his arm to control the ball beyond him and score the equaliser after Rangers did more than enough to secure all three points. Charlie Austin in particular was outstanding that night while Bobby Zamora terrified Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis in the visiting defence.

Barton started that match on the bench, entering the fray on a wet Saturday night at the interval before running himself into the ground snuffing out attacks, eating up ground and harassing City's glittering midfield.

Dunne and Barton are both out of contract at the end of the season. Whether the club will offer them a new deal and whether they will have any interest in taking it, having been let down by people around them this campaign, remains to be seen.

The clash at City offers a great chance for Barton in particular to exorcise some demons that may or may not still reside in his vast and over-worked mind.

It will be his first visit to the Etihad since he was sent off against City back in May 2012. The 12-match ban, exile to Marseille and his online vow to never play in the Championship with the Rs has been extensively covered in the intervening period.

But this season he has won over the fans. It has marked a huge turnaround for the man once deemed untouchable by most English clubs and who almost joined lowly Fleetwood on loan.

Barton has been an example of how hard work and commitment to the badge is all it takes to get QPR fans on your side. And it is incredible to think how he has gone from Loftus Road Enemy No.1 to occasional captain while former fans' favourites like Adel Taarabt and Niko Kranjcar rarely get off the subs' bench. Their talent has out-weighed their dedication.

If City's stars muster up a bit of enthusiasm and results elsewhere once again go against Rangers, this could be a hellish weekend for the club. But the likes of Barton, Dunne, Austin, Zamora, Karl Henry and Rob Green deserve better from this fixture for their contribution this season, especially in the reverse match they deserved something from.


Wally Downes Jr. is a reporter for Hayters sports agency in London and a contributor to ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @WallyDownes_Jr.

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