Interview conducted prior to QPR’s meeting with Leeds United on Tuesday 26 February.
Queens Park Rangers’ form this season makes for fascinating reading: they lost the first four, recovered to sit within a few points of the Play-Off places and have now lost seven on the spin. Sum up this campaign for us…
The seven defeats they’ve just suffered are pretty different to those at the start of the season. The manner in which they started the campaign sparked genuine relegation fears, whereas now they aren’t getting completely played off the park; there have been some late defeats and injuries to key members of the squad. It’s a weird one; they’ve not played like a team that’s lost seven games on the spin, but that doesn’t alter the fact that they are on quite a worrying run.
In the midst of a miserable run such as this, fingers are usually pointed in the direction of the manager. How much pressure does Steve McClaren find himself under at present?
There’s always pressure on any manager who is overseeing a club going through a bad patch. However, there have been several individual errors that have contributed to this poor run as much as, if not more than, the manager. That’s been especially evident in the last few home games where they’ve lost 4-1 to Preston North End, 4-3 to Birmingham City and 3-2 to West Bromwich Albion.
Thomas Frank has already earmarked this as the biggest game of the season for Brentford. Do you think The R’s will arrive at Griffin Park with the same mindset?
I remember the game at Loftus Road, which was one of Frank’s first games in charge after taking over from Dean Smith. I think that was the first time QPR had come from behind to win a game this season – they had the kind of momentum that made them pull their socks up. It could be that the opposition played a part in that because it’s always a pretty tasty game between the two sides. If QPR lose against Leeds United on Tuesday, you’d feel they are going to have to look at pretty much every upcoming game as a huge fixture.
Which player should Brentford fans keep an eye on this weekend?
It depends on fitness, but if Luke Freeman is back from injury then it will be him. He limped off against West Brom on 19 February, QPR finished the game with ten men and then conceded at the death. He missed the Middlesbrough game last weekend and is touch-and-go this week, but there’s hope he’ll be back for the West London derby. Everything goes through him, whether that’s set-pieces or open play, because he’s moved into a more central position. If he’s playing because he’s fit, rather than being rushed back, then I think he’s QPR’s danger man.
How are QPR likely to set up on Saturday?
The last three or four games, since the second half against Birmingham, they’ve moved to more of a 3-5-2 formation, with Pawel Wszolek and Jake Bidwell as the wing-backs. From September through to January, it was more of a 4-4-1-1, with Ebere Eze playing off the striker, which was, generally speaking, Nahki Wells. You’d imagine it would be one of those two systems, but based on the fact they need to tighten things up and get a run of clean sheets going, I think they are more likely to opt for the former.
While QPR won the return fixture at Loftus Road in November, The Bees have won four of the last six meetings between the two sides. What’s your score prediction for this one?
It’s always a tough one, but I’m going to go for a 1-1 draw with Neal Maupay getting Brentford’s goal – he’s one of the toughest players QPR have faced this season.
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