London: Harry Redknapp, back in the familiar role of trying to resurrect an ailing club’s fortunes, swaps easy street for a Premier League survival dogfight when he takes charge of Queens Park Rangers (QPR) for the first time at Sunderland on Tuesday.
Redknapp has been out of club management since being ditched by Tottenham Hotspur in the summer despite turning Spurs into a force in English football again during his four-year tenure at White Hart Lane.
If things had worked out differently, the 65-year-old might have found himself an international manager and shipping out to leafy Kiev to take charge of Ukraine, rather than settling into the cramped confines of Loftus Road.
Whether Redknapp would have accepted the Ukraine post will remain unanswered, with the dismissal of Mark Hughes by winless Rangers on Friday coming at an opportune time.
The lure of another Premier League role — and no doubt enticing financial reward for saving a dismal Rangers season — proved too good to turn down.
Redknapp watched from the stands at Old Trafford on Saturday as rock-bottom Rangers took a second-half lead at Manchester United before conceding three goals in an eight-minute spell.
Rangers embarked on a summer spending spree in overhauling their squad, bringing in players such as Jose Bosingwa, Esteban Granero and Junior Hoilett, and Redknapp is hoping he can get the best out of the players he has inherited.
“The players at QPR have not performed to their potential,” he said.
“The players have to be at it, the buck stops with them. I didn’t tell the club I wanted money to spend, I have not even discussed that situation. There are some good players here and if we can get them performing then come January, we might not need so much.”
The omens are not good for Rangers at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday.
Sunderland have won their last five meetings in the Premier League and Championship — and six out of their last eight dating back to 1998.
While Redknapp gets to grips with trying to drag Rangers off the foot of the table, Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez will be hoping for a better reception when he takes charge of his second game at home to Fulham on Wednesday.
The Spaniard’s appointment, in place of the axed Roberto Di Matteo last week, was greeted in hostile fashion by Chelsea fans who jeered him in the 0-0 draw with Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Fourth-placed Chelsea are five points behind leaders Manchester United but without a win in five league games.
United, who regained top spot with victory over QPR and held on to it after City were held by Chelsea, take on West Ham United at Old Trafford while their Manchester rivals are away at Wigan Athletic.
Third-placed West Bromwich Albion, who continued their impressive start with a 4-2 weekend win at Sunderland, are on the road again, this time at Swansea City.
Arsenal, held to a 0-0 draw by lowly Aston Villa on Saturday, head to Everton — one place above them in fifth. The Londoners have won five of their last six meetings, including their last three visits to Goodison Park where they strolled to a 6-1 victory in 2009.
Southampton and Norwich, two improving sides, meet on the south coast but firmly in the spotlight will be referee Mark Clattenburg.
Clattenburg has not officiated since October 28 when Chelsea accused him of “inappropriate language” towards John Obi Mikel during the 3-2 home defeat by Manchester United.
However, investigations by both the Metropolitan Police and the English FA found there was no case to answer.
Tottenham Hotspur welcome Liverpool to White Hart Lane hoping to dish out similar treatment to last season.
Liverpool’s visit to north London in September last year resulted in a humiliating 4-0 defeat, the Anfield side playing for the last half hour with nine men after Charlie Adam was sent off in the first half, then Martin Skrtel after the break.