The Build Up: Middlesbrough v QPR Preview
Boro welcome QPR to the Riverside on Saturday at the slightly earlier time of 12.30pm, following the passing of Prince Phillip last week.
Another game for Boro where there is simply nothing to play, other than confidence for next season. The club have found themselves 14 points off the Play-Offs, with their place in next year’s Championship campaign all but official.
In a dreadful game last time out, Boro were defeated at Oakwell by Play-Off chasing Barnsley. Questions continue to be asked of goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, who should have done better to avoid conceding both times. The Reds didn’t do near enough to warrant coming home with anything other than with zero points. Neil Warnock and the Boro fans alike are desperately hoping that their side can produce a confident performance to put right the miserable showings of the last few weeks.
Dael Fry and Marcus Tavernier’s absences have continued to prove crucial to Boro’s bad form. The pair have missed each of the last three fixtures with the side claiming just one point in that time. The side seem deflated of energy, ideas and ambition and all these must be put right this weekend, should the club want to finish the season on a high.
With the end of the season drawing nearer, players will have points to prove. Neeskans Kebano could be playing at the Riverside again next season, but as a returning player with Fulham. Should the winger want to stay at Craven Cottage, a good end to the season will be vital for him. Alternatively, Yannick Bolasie and Britt Assombalonga will likely be free agents come June 30th, ending strongly and confidently will be ideal on a personal level to display themselves in the shop window.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing has failed to hit the ground running for Boro thus far, and with his contract up at the end of the season, he may struggle for offers following his ban earlier in the season. However, under a manager that he is familiar with, Mendez-Laing could be playing for a contract between now and the close of the year.
Josh Coburn scored a hat-trick for Boro u-17s in midweek, and after seeing the young striker appear on the bench on several occasions, could he be in line for his senior debut? You’d like to think so. Warnock may see fit to hand debuts and first-team appearance to the likes of the Boro youngsters such as Coburn to give him experience in the senior game.
Since the turn of the year, only three sides have won more points than QPR; all three of those sides sit in the top 6 – Norwich City, Watford and Barnsley. That is a testament to the work that Mark Warburton has done with the Rs, following a slower start to the season after losing talented playmaker Ebere Eze in the summer. Should QPR have had a quicker start to the campaign, they could very well have found themselves in and amongst the Play-Off picture, a scenario that Warburton will be aiming for next term.
In place of Eze is Moroccan midfielder Ilias Chair – Moroccan talisman for QPR, sound familiar? Chair has enjoyed a decent return in front of the goal, scoring eight goals for the Hoops, bettered only by Lyndon Dykes. Scottish forward Dykes struggled for goals in the first half of the season but has since found a touch of goalscoring form, which Boro should be wary of as defensive frailties continue to set in for the Teessiders.
Chris Willock has proven to be a tricky winger for QPR this season, without any real goal contributions to show for it. Boro’s right-back will have his hands full when Willock matches up against the Reds this afternoon.
The two sides met early in the season, and played out a 1-1 draw at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, in a meeting that saw Neil Warnock missing from the dugout after contracting coronavirus. A debut goal for Chuba Akpom was cancelled out just nine minutes later by Bright Osayi-Samuel.
An extremely balanced head-to-head record, just edged by Boro’s visitors.
Boro wins: 18
QPR Wins: 19