QPR v Middlesbrough - Preview
I've never really been against the International break. Some fans find it frustrating as it stops any potential momentum being built but I used to see it as a nice break and chance to see some top class international football.
However this year, after the well-documented failings of England's contribution in the World Cup I've found it difficult to bring myself to get excited about the matches against Bulgaria and Switzerland.
I'm glad to have seen the back of the international break, I'm not anti-England I'm just pro QPR and I've found myself continuously thinking about QPR's performances this season and how we might fare against Middlesbrough.
This Saturday the league leaders welcome Middlesbrough to Loftus Road in what should be a tightly contested affair. Middlesbrough have not started as well as predicted but will be looking to amend their below average beginning with what would be their first away win of the season.
Confidence is high in the QPR camp especially after the terrific stoppage time comeback against Derby two weeks ago. The R's sit top of the table but will have to guard against complacency despite Boro's abject start.
Middlesbrough have a lot to live up to after being labelled the pre-season favourites to win the league. Gordon Strachan has spent some serious money on players like Scott McDonald (£3.5m) and this summer he signed Kevin Thomson (£2m), Stephen McManus (£1.5m) and Nicky Bailey (£1.4m).
Strachan has won just 11 out of 39 games losing 16 and considering their start this season, I think if they continue to stutter he would be a good bet to get the sack.
Both teams have been very busy in the transfer window this summer with eight new additions for Middlesbrough and nine additions for QPR. It would be understandable for both clubs to struggle at first considering it takes time for the squad to gel, maybe it's indicative to Neil Warnock`s ability as a manager that QPR sit proudly at the top.
Derby County 2 (Commons, Bailey)
QPR 2 (Agyemang, Mackie)
Team: Paddy Kenny, Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Matthew Connolly, Clint Hill, Sean Derry (Buzsaky) Alejandro Faurlin, Adel Taarabt (Clarke), Hogan Ephraim, Jamie Mackie, Heider Helguson (Agyemang).
Barnsley 2 (Shackell, Hammill)
Team: Jason Steele, Matthew Bates, David Wheater, Stephen McManus, Matt Kilgallon (Williams), Tarmo Kink (Halliday), Barry Robson, Nicky Bailey, Julio Arca, Scott McDonald, Kris Boyd.
QPR Team News:
New signing Tommy Smith will be in the squad whilst fellow new signing Rob Hulse is still a couple of weeks ago with an achilles problem.
Martin Rowlands continued his road to recovery in the reserve fixture against Tottenham. Rowlands hasn't appeared for the first team in 11 months and nearing an inclusion for the first team after making good progress in recent reserve matches.
According to head physio Nigel Cox, Adel Taarabt should be in contention for the game despite aggravating his groin in the Derby game. Cox also confirmed that Fitz Hall will be unavailable but should be back after this week's game.
After Patrick Agyemang's goal against Derby he will be vying for a place in the starting XI but providing Heider Helguson is fit he should keep his place.
Orr - Connolly - Gorkss - Hill
Ephraim -Taarabt - Faurlín - Mackie
Player to watch: Jamie Mackie
Mackie started his career at Wimbledon and stayed on when the club was renamed MK Dons but soon moved to conference side Exeter. A relatively successful stay at Exeter led to league clubs such as Bristol City, Norwich, Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham Town becoming interested in his signature.
Mackie handed in a transfer request before eventually signing for Plymouth Argyle for £125,000. Mackie remarkably scored 11 seconds into his debut against Barnsley after coming on as a substitute.
He went on to make 98 appearances for Plymouth scoring 16 times before moving to QPR this summer for an undisclosed fee.
Mackie has had a bright start to his QPR career scoring three goals in four league appearances including the memorable 95th minute equaliser against Derby. The passion Mackie displays especially when he scores is a joy to watch and is clearly enjoying his time at Rangers.
He will be one to watch this Saturday as he epitomises Neil Warnock's never say die attitude and will work hard all game. An aspect of Mackie's game which shouldn't go overlooked is his movement. He likes to get in behind the back four and latch onto through balls and with three goals to his name already I wouldn't put it past him to score again on Saturday.
Middlesbrough Team News:
Willo Flood, Rhys Williams and Kevin Thomson remain sidelined but Gordon Strachan is handed a boost with the news that Gary O'Neil is fit again. O'Neil returns for Middlesbrough after being out with a serious knee problem.
Barry Robson could be a doubt with a knock he picked up on international duty. Robson didn't train on Thursday morning but could be available on Saturday.
Mickael Tavares is available for selection after his internal clearance came through. Tavares signed on loan from Hamburg last week.
Bates - Wheater - McManus - Kilgallon
Kink - Arca - Robson - Bailey
McDonald - Boyd
Player to watch: Kris Boyd
Kris Boyd has been identified as the player to watch ahead of this week's match against Middlesbrough.
To read Jack's assesment of the One to Watch Click Here >>>
The Stat Attack
Queens Park Rangers: W L W W D
Middlesbrough: W D W L L
HEAD 2 HEAD
Queens Park Rangers: 13
LAST TIME OUT
Coca Cola Championship - 23- 3 -10
Middlesbrough 2 (Robson 2)
Team: Carl Ikeme, Peter Ramage, Matt Hill (Borrowdale), Damion Stewart, Kaspars Gorkss, Mikele Leigertwood, Alejandro Faurlin (Buzsaky), Lee Cook, Jay Simpson, Antonio German (Bent).
See also: Queens Park Rangers 3-0 Middlesbrough - 20-11-1976
Referee: Mick Russell (Hertfordshire)
Assistants: P Knight & H Lennard
Fourth Official: I Crouch
Mick Russell is the match official for the game on Saturday and has officiated six games this season. His last game was Hull`s 2-0 victory over Swansea.
Last season Russell issued 92 yellow cards and 3 Red in 38 games.
To read more on Mick Russell see: Ref Watch
2-1 win Middlesbrough have been pretty poor so far this season but it is early days and I expect them to turn it around soon, whether that is against QPR I certainly hope not. I watched Middlesbrough v Sheffield Untied on Sky and it was very poor. The Boro players offered no movement and didn't show any desire to win the match. The only reason they won the match was because of a Chris Morgan error, apart from that they created nothing and the match was pretty painful to watch. They continued this game plan against Barnsley and lost 2-0. The international break couldn`t have arrived sooner for Middlesbrough and they may return on Saturday a rejuvenated side. Players like Scott McDonald and Kris Boyd will be much tougher opposition for our centre backs, McDonald`s aerial ability and hold up play will cause problems. QPR will need to cut out the silly errors seen against Scunthorpe because Kris Boyd will score if given the opportunities Jonathan Forte was handed in the match against Scunthorpe. QPR have been strong at home winning against Barnsley and Scunthorpe without conceding. Middlebrough will prove to be a much stronger test than the aforementioned but if QPR's top boys turn up then we have every chance of winning. QPR players Jamie Mackie and Adel Taarabt are both in terrific form and their goal scoring exploits have established them as fan favourites. Boro will have to mirror Derby's set up if they are to dampen Adel Taarabt's influence on the game and that would mean swapping one of their key strikers for a midfielder. If Strachan opts for a 442 formation and Taarabt is allowed the freedom of recent matches then he will pick apart Middlesbrough's defence.
Who: Ipswich Town
Where: Portman Road
When: Tuesday September 14, 2010 - 1945