This will be the 49th competitive fixture between Queens Park Rangers and Middlesbrough.
Boro come into the game on the following the controversial defeat to Fulham whilst QPR have found form in the New Year after winning back to back league games. The R’s currently lay in 14th place 8 points away from Boro who lay in 9th, 2 points of the playoff places.
The two sides faced off earlier in the season in an entertaining fixture with Boro coming from behind, twice to win the game 3-2.
- QPR have lost each of their last three league matches against Middlesbrough since a run of four consecutive wins between September 2010 and March 2014.
- Middlesbrough have never won back-to-back away league matches against the Hoops.
- R’s boss Ian Holloway hasn’t lost a home league match against Tony Pulis since February 1999, with Gillingham winning 1-0 at Bristol Rovers with a goal from Andy Hessenthaler.
- Middlesbrough are on a two-game winning streak on the road in the league after three successive losses – they haven’t won three in a row since January 2016 (four consecutive away wins).
- Boro are the only side in the competition yet to drop points from a leading position this season – winning all 12 games when going ahead.
Head-to- head record: Middlesbrough wins: 16, Draws: 15, QPR wins: 17
Saturday’s game against Fulham was a classic ‘Typical Boro’ performance. In the first half we should have been 3-0 up and killed the game but due to our inability to be clinical in front of goal we were punished.
Even though Boro could not score, I thought the general performance was ok. I thought we had control of the game throughout, even without the ball. Boro’s shape was good and we defended well in spells and it was hugely frustrating to give away a penalty kick.
The decision, however, was one of many poor decisions by the officials. Their performance cost Boro the game. However, it’s not just them, many officials have been questioned by managers throughout the football league and maybe it is the time we look more into the standard/help referees during the game with technology.
But for now, the game is gone and we should move on to Saturday’s game at QPR.
Tony Pulis is set to make one/two changes to the Boro team following the defeat against Fulham with Britt Assombalonga replacing Rudy Gestede in the attack.
Boro were excellent in the first half against Fulham. Boro played with tempo, kept composed on the ball but were terrible in the final third. Hence why I can see Britt coming back into the team.
The Boro manager was able to have a look at first-team players this week with an U23 game against Blackburn. Ashley Fletcher, Adam Clayton, Adlene Guedioura and Marvin Johnson were part of the side which drew 3-3 with Fletcher bagging a brace and Marvin Johnson scoring the other.
In the pre-match conference, Pulis explained a couple of players have been out due to illness but other than that, Boro have a clean bill of health.
Finally, it’s no surprise seeing players leaving after the Boro managers comments in recent weeks with Marcus Tavernier (loan) and Adam Forshaw leaving the club during the week.
As for QPR, they have had a mixed season so far. The R’s have suffered a number of injuries to key players throughout the season including 8 defenders in one month.
Ian Holloway stressed his side would be higher up the Championship table if it wasn’t for those injuries but remained confident in his team to have a strong finish to the campaign.
If QPR want to make it 3 league wins on the spin, they will have to do it without Paul Smyth. The 20-year-old has not featured since the FA Cup tie with MK Dons due to a thigh injury. Furthermore, David Wheeler (ankle) and Jordan Cousins (hamstring) are set to miss the game.
Despite that, the R’s still have the players who can cause problems. Massimo Luongo, Luke Freeman, Matt Smith and Jamie Mackie have been the bright sparks throughout their campaign contributing or scoring 29 out of 31 goals this season.
There is another player Boro should keep an eye on this Saturday though – and it is 19-year-old, Aramide Oteh. The youngster was excellent against Burton Albion last week, scoring his first goal for the club in a 3-1 victory.
Finally, former Boro boy Alex Baptiste is set to return to the QPR line-up following his spell out on the sidelines.
Players to Watch: Aramide Oteh, Massimo Luongo and Luke Freeman.
I expect Ian Holloway to set up his team to cause the Boro backline problems again. At the Riverside, QPR were excellent at spreading the play quickly and able to press the right areas causing Boro to make mistakes.
However, QPR have slightly changed their formation from the previous fixture against Boro. Holloway now sets his team up in the 3-5-2 formation with Wszolak and Bidwell providing width with Connor Washington and Jamie Mackie leading the line.
Throughout the season and Holloway’s reign, QPR have predominately attacked from the right with quick interplay in the midfield in an attempt to provide space.
However, if Boro remain compact and press Luongo and Luke Freeman on the ball, QPR will become more direct and try to hit the ball long for the striker to run onto.
To help counter QPR’s style Boro must push Traore and Braithwaite up the pitch to stop the wingers pushing forward and make QPR play with a back 5.
In previous games, no one has been able to stop Adama Traore once he gets the ball and the thought of him may make Holloway think twice about allowing his fullbacks forward. They may push the wingers back into a flat five which, in turn, could cause a disruption of fluidity to QPR’s play and make it difficult to move up the pitch.
As for Boro, I expect Tony Pulis to keep Boro in the 4-2-3-1 formation and use Traore as the outlet on the counter. The Boro manager has come in and gave an instant direction on how he wants his team to play; with effort, resilience and quick movement of the ball to the wings for the Boro striker to run onto.
The first half against Fulham was a clear message to fans on how Boro will now play. Unfortunately, we were unable to take the chances needed to win the game.
My Preferred XI:
Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter, Howson, Downing, Braithwaite, Adama, Assombalonga. (4-2-3-1)
If I was the manager on Saturday, I would set Boro up in the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Although I am a huge believer of 3 at the back, I see the 4-2-3-1 as the more viable option on Saturday as it will allow Boro to have 4 attacking players against QPR’s 3. Plus, the 4-2-3-1 allows you to play with more structure on the pitch and keeps the team connected throughout the game.
In terms of changes in personnel, I think Assombalonga should come into the team rather than Gestede. In my opinion, Assombalonga does offer you more up front. He has pace, strength and the knack to score goals
Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend. Leadbitter, Howson, Braithwaite, Downing, Traore, Assombalonga. (4-2-3-1)
It’s going to be an entertaining game for the neutral with both sides desperate to pick up points and have a strong finish to the campaign. QPR’s expansive style may fall into Boro’s arms especially with Adama Traore starting to pick up form.
Score Prediction: QPR 1-3 Boro