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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Queens Park Rangers

Sean Gallagher, Senior Sports Writer at talkSPORT previews our near neighbours

17 February 2021

QPR have been firmly rooted in the bottom half of the Championship table since early October, though four wins from the last five games, at the time of writing, means Mark Warburton’s men are on the rise. How would you summarise their season to date?

Very up and down. Mark Warburton has gone on record saying his side's performances earlier in the season warranted better results on the whole - and he has a point. A lack of cutting edge up top certainly cost them dearly in close-fought games, as well as defensive errors.  Having spoken at length with Warburton last week, he expressed his belief that a top 10 finish is attainable. And considering the squad upheaval - losing the likes of Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ryan Manning - that would be a very good return.

Wins were hard to come by in December, though looking at results since the start of the season, it seems as though a lack of consistency has been their downfall. Would you agree?

Yes. Performances weren't necessarily that bad; even during an eight-game winless streak which sparked speculation that Warburton could lose his job at QPR. I'm sure the majority of supporters would agree the Rs have been a lot easier on the eye to watch in general, but in front of goal they lacked that predatory instinct - until fans favourite Charlie Austin made a shock return. They certainly haven't struggled creating chances, it's been more about taking them. Their recent run has been positive, but they need to maintain this sort of form to move them firmly away from danger and closer towards the top half of the table.

Rangers were reasonably active in the January transfer window, with goalkeeper Joe Walsh the one permanent signing, along with four players joining on loan – including cult hero Charlie Austin – and the surprise early departure of Osayi-Samuel to Fenerbahce. What did you make of their business, on the whole?

Pretty solid, all things considered. You won’t find many better finishers plying their trade in the Championship than Austin. His goal record speaks for itself. Stefan Johansen was an outstanding acquisition from Fulham on loan - the club did very well to get that over the line. Jordy de Wijs' arrival also adds further competition to the backline and seems a relatively low-risk addition - with the option to make that deal permanent in the summer.

Meanwhile, the acquisition of Sam Field seems a sensible piece of business. He's someone who is desperate to prove a point to his parent club, West Brom, and has already gone on record saying he is keen on a permanent transfer to QPR - which Rangers can do at the end of the season should they wish to do so. The Osayi-Samuel saga was a bit messy; but to Bright's defence he was man enough to apologise to the relevant personnel at the club's training ground when the time came to say goodbye. He's certainly a decent young prospect and I hope he does well at Fenerbahce - his presence on social media has all of a sudden rocketed!

Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on during the second west London derby of the season?

Ilias Chair (pictured above). A cracking little player who could end up getting a similar move to Eze in the future if he plays his cards right. Chair's a very humble down to earth person, who gives QPR that something different in those attacking areas. It was always going to be a tall order replicating Eze's feats, but Chair is trying his utmost to do so. He is a popular figure among fans - and that reputation has only accelerated further after signing a new four-and-a-half year deal last month. I said the same with Eze and I'll say it again: enjoy watching him while you can, QPR fans.

How is Warburton likely to set up his side at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium?

Rangers have looked a lot more solid since switching to a back three, with ex-Bees defender Yoann Barbet looking really impressive in this set-up. Rob Dickie has also proven to be an outstanding acquisition to date, with goalkeeper Seny Dieng an absolute revelation since returning from his season-long loan at Doncaster. Question marks have been raised about Warburton's defensive setup in the past, but to his credit the club have currently conceded 19 goals less at this stage of the season than in 2019/20. Supporters will point towards Dieng playing a major role in that - and rightly so - but the likes of Barbet and Dickie deserve huge credit too.

Playing with two wing-backs has also worked in Todd Kane's favour as it allows him to get further forward, where he's able to utilise his pace and athleticism. Lyndon Dykes looks set to return for this crunch derby clash, and Austin will almost certainly partner him.  The impact Austin has had since coming to the QPR can't be undisputed, nor can his love for the club. His experience and know-how has been a major asset, as well as the intelligent runs he makes off the ball - his goal at Luton on his second debut a prime example of that. Losing Tom Carroll's technical prowess in midfield was a big blow for Warburton, but it has to be said Johansen has added steel and grit in the middle of the park that was desperately lacking previously.

Brentford have won four of the last five meetings between the two sides, but what’s your score prediction for this one?

I quite fancy QPR to get a draw out of this one to be fair; but the Bees will be desperate to avenge the surprise 2-0 defeat to Barnsley. From what I've seen of Brentford they look shaky from set-pieces and that will be a weakness Warburton will certainly be looking to exploit. It's also worth noting they've gone behind in each of their last four games - so I'm sure Rangers will be looking to make an early impact on proceedings. Brentford are a top side at this level and more than good enough to finish in the top two - but the same was said last season and they quite literally threw it away in the final games of the season before losing in the play-off final to Fulham. Going forward Thomas Frank's men are a frightening proposition with Ivan Toney leading the line. But if Rangers can keep him quiet; then they might record a rather overdue favourable result when it comes to these meetings. 1-1.

Tonight's game is live on iFollow as well as the Sky Sports Red Button. 

Season Ticket and Premium Seat Holders already have VIP access to the game but match passes are also available for £10 (£7 international fans) so you can watch live. 

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