QPR’s young guns to test the Barnsley defence
QPR sit perfectly in mid-table and come into this game in superb form. Some optimistic supporters have spoken about the possibility of a late play-off push. Realistically, a top half finish would rank as a superb achievement for Mark Warburton and his coaching staff. The R’s are just six points off the top six, and with Preston, Bristol City and Swansea all proving fairly inconsistent over the last couple of weeks, their hopes aren’t quite dead and buried just yet.
The west Londoners come off the back of a superb victory against the Lilywhites. The manager’s half-time changes altered the course of the contest with impressive duo Ilias Chair and Luke Amos offering the side far more in the final third. They were also aided by Preston’s unfathomable approach of defending a one goal lead for 45 minutes, although that shouldn’t detract from the fact that the visitors were superb after the break.
With Geoff Cameron suspended, Warburton will be forced to tweak his starting XI, and he may opt for a more attacking line-up. He’s tended to play it safe on the road in recent weeks, deploying Marc Pugh and Dominic Ball to shield the defence and take the pressure off the likes of Grant Hall and Yoann Barbet. However, at home, he is far more likely to encourage his side to play on the front foot.
The form of Eberechi Eze continues to attract admirers from higher divisions and he is ably assisted by the resurgent Osayi-Bright Samuel. The former Blackpool man has enjoyed a terrific season in the Championship and his industrious approach to games tends to enable QPR to create plenty of goalscoring opportunities.
The hosts have netted 11 times in their last four matches, and they’ve also managed to notch eight in their last three outings at this ground. Fans are understandably excited by their young side’s ability to entertain, and this could be one of their final opportunities to see the likes of aforementioned Eze, Samuel and Ryan Manning play in blue and white hoops.
Only West Brom and Brentford have found the net more times than the R’s this season, and although they’ve played a game more than the Bees, they have still managed to notch the highest number of home goals in the second tier.
They’ll be feeling confident coming into this game, especially when you factor in their home record against Barnsley. They’ve won each of their last 11 matches against the South Yorkshire side at this ground, and despite eight different managers appearing in the home dugout during this period, they appear to simply enjoy taking on the Tykes at Loftus Road.
Tykes’ still conceding sloppy goals
The visitors are in real trouble at the bottom of the table, and last week’s damaging defeat to Cardiff appeared to be another nail in the relegation coffin. They are creating chances under Gerhard Struber, however, they switched off twice in two minutes and weren’t able to find a way back into the tie.
Their defence has improved since the Austrian arrived at Oakwell, although they still have tendency to concede sloppy goals, and that could play into QPR’s hands on Saturday afternoon. The hosts will pounce upon any errors at the back and have the ability to be unforgiving in front of goal. Barnsley may find the back of the net in this one, despite having the lowest conversion rate in the league, however, it may not be enough to secure them a share of the spoils.
Backing Over 1.5 QPR goals in this tie at 4/5 on the Sportsbook looks like a very good way of approaching this potentially high-scoring contest. It would have paid out on 11 occasions at this ground so far this season.
Millwall and Derby to both register at the Den
Following last Friday’s impressive victory at the City Ground, Millwall looked a very tempting prospect at [2.18] this weekend, however, the Lions struggle to finish sides off in front of their own fans, and it may be best to swerve the match market altogether in this one.
Gary Rowett has been in charge for 24 Championship matches and has picked up 10 victories since taking over from Neil Harris. Half of those victories have been acquired on the road, with the Bermondsey club managing just a single win on their own patch since New Year’s Day.
Rowett has made his side exceptionally tough to beat, and they have suffered just five defeats under him, with two of those coming against Leeds and West Brom. Despite this, they have become difficult to trust at the Den, although they do have the tendency to find the back of the net. Only the aforementioned Baggies and Birmingham have kept them off the scoresheet at this ground so far this campaign, and Derby’s defence does not look strong enough to handle the likes of Jed Wallace and Matt Smith.
Forty-four goals in 37 Championship games may not be an extraordinary total, but they do tend to create a fair number of chances per game, and their continual aerial bombardment of the opposition is likely to cause plenty of uncertainty amongst the Derby back-line.
The Rams remain the only side in the second tier without a clean sheet on their travels this season. Phillip Cocu‘s side have undoubtedly improved in the final third, and with a faint whiff of play-offs still in the air, their young squad will undoubtedly be up for for this trip to the capital. They’ve shipped 13 times in their last six away games and look very vulnerable, especially from set-piece situations.
Crucially, the visitors have found their shooting boots in recent weeks, and have netted three times in each of their last two Championship matches. They are playing with confidence in the final third, and they will fancy their chances of finding a way past a Lions defence which has managed just a single clean sheet in their last four matches at this stadium.
BTTS is available at 20/23 on the Sportsbook, and could be the best way to go in this one. Millwall struggle to pick up points on their own patch, while Derby are sloppy on the road and can’t be trusted until they begin to show a little more defensive solidity.
Stoke to secure a valuable point in Berkshire
Stoke have become incredibly tough to beat under Michael O’Neill, and that back-to-basics approach on their travels has helped them keep their heads above water at the bottom of the Championship. The Potters are far from safe, and they cannot afford to take their foot off the gas anytime soon, but they do look far more organised since the Northern Irishman arrived in Staffordshire.
They’re undefeated in three of their last five matches on the road, and should probably have taken all three points against Luton last month. Only three sides have beaten O’Neill’s underachieving side in 2020, and they’ve shipped just two goals in their last four outings. The form of academy products Tyrese Campbell and Nathan Collins points to a bright future for the former Premier League side, and with the likes of Sam Clucas and Tommy Smith also hitting form in recent weeks, they are a match for anyone at the moment.
Reading eased to a 3-1 victory at St.Andrews last weekend and although the jury is still out regarding the long-term future of manager Mark Bowen, the Welshman has helped solidify the Royals and has quietly steered them into mid-table. Although he has been occasionally accused of foregoing the more aesthetically pleasing side of the game, his team do possess plenty of flair players and the likes of John Swift, Pele and George Puscas have certainly caught the eye at times this year.
They have a good record against Stoke at the Madejski, denying the visitors a victory in all of their last 14 visits to this ground. Six of those meetings have ended in a stalemate, and we face the prospect of a similar outcome once again. O’Neill was clearly playing for the point at Ewood Park on February 26, opting to bring on defensive reinforcements in the second half, and he isn’t afraid to ask his side to simply shut up shop and take something from the match.
The draw is available at [3.15] on the Exchange and looks worth backing in this clash between two sides who are each led by fairly pragmatic managers.
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7