Middlesbrough Match Preview
by, 03-12-2009 at 08:17 PM (1068 Views)
Saturday 5th December 2009
The Coca Cola Championship
Loftus Road Stadium
Referee: K D Hill
Queens Park Rangers (5th) V Middlesbrough (10th)
By The Godfather
It's been almost a week since the 2-2 draw with Coventry City and I'm still feeling frustrated. It was a travesty that Queens Park Rangers had to settle for a point, with the Super Hoops wasting several clear-cut opportunities and conceding two very soft goals. The Rs are going to have to be more clinical up front and produce a better defensive performance if they are to beat Gordon Strachan's Middlesbrough side on Saturday afternoon.
Season 2008-09 finish: 19th place (Premier League).
Manager: Gordon Strachan
Gareth Southgate's sacking came as a bit of a shock to many football fans. In October, after a 2-0 win against Derby had put Boro' within one point of the top position, it was announced that the former England defender had been dismissed.
Middlesbrough fans will be hoping that Southgate's replacement, Gordon Strachan, has what it takes to achieve promotion back to the Premier League. He has certainly enjoyed success in his managerial career, having won the SPL three times with Celtic.
However, things have not started well for the new manager. After four games in charge, Strachan is still without a victory. This poor run of form has seen the team slip to 10th position in the Championship. If results don't improve quickly, Strachan could find himself under pressure from the fans. It's therefore crucial that Middlesbrough produce a decent performance against QPR on Saturday. In fact, Boro' could go above Rangers with a victory.
Men to watch
Middlesbrough's star man is right winger, Adam Johnson. The 22 year-old is no stranger to Championship football, having enjoyed a highly successful loan spell with Watford back in 2007. In fact, as soon as he returned to Boro', the Hornets dropped out of the top two positions and eventually missed out on promotion. Johnson is a footballer of immense talent and is expected to play a key role in the club's bid to get back into the Premiership.
Strachan's frontline is certainly impressive. For example, proven Championship goalscorer, Leroy Lita, is likely to be given a starting place. The 24 year-old, who has been repeatedly linked with a move to QPR in the past, joined Middlesbrough during the summer on a free transfer. He has since made 17 appearances, netting 3 goals. Lita, who has played for Bristol City, Reading, Charlton and Norwich, could pose a threat on Saturday afternoon.
Another former Reading striker, Dave Kitson, could partner Lita in attack. The 29 year-old first gained a reputation as a quality forward playing for the Royals, netting 54 times in 135 starts. However, since joining Stoke City in 2008, he has struggled to regain his goalscoring form. He subsequently spent a brief period on loan at the Madejski Stadium at the end of the last campaign. This season, he has again failed to establish himself as a first team regular at Stoke and joined Boro' on a two-month loan deal. Kitson will be feeling confident after notching both goals in the 2-2 draw against Peterborough last Saturday.
In central midfield, Julio Arca could play. The 28 year-old, who can also fill the left-back position, has bags of Premiership experience, having played for Sunderland prior to his move to Middlesbrough in 2006. The Argentinean has made 73 appearances for Boro', scoring 4 goals.
Isaiah Osbourne will probably start alongside Arca in the heart of midfield. Gordon Strachan secured the 22 year-old's services on a loan deal from Aston Villa. Osbourne is seen as a hot prospect for the future by Villa supporters and could have a very bright future ahead of him.
In central defence, the talented Sean St Ledger should keep his place. In September, the 24 year-old signed for Middlesbrough on a three-month loan deal from Preston, with a view to a permanent transfer in January. As he demonstrated during his three-year spell with the Lilywhites, St Ledger is a very talented defender. His outstanding performances have already earned him 9 international caps for Ireland.
Captain, Emanuel Pogatetz, could partner St Ledger. The tough-tackling defender, who can also play as a full-back, is renowned for his work-rate. The Austrian international joined Boro' in 2005 and has since made over 100 appearances. He lists Bayer Leverkusen and Spartak Moscow among his former clubs.
In goal, Brad Jones is likely to keep his place. The 27 year-old has spent his entire career with the Teesiders, going out on loan to Stockport, Rotherham, Blackpool and Sheffield Wednesday. After the departure of Mark Schwarzer, Jones became first-choice goalkeeper. His recent performances have earned him a call-up to the Australian national team.
Not good news, I'm afraid! The man in charge of Saturday's match will be Mr Hill, who sent off both Ben Watson and Martin Rowlands during the 2-0 defeat to Swansea City earlier this season.
Queens Park Rangers: LDWLD (Last match - QPR 2-2 Coventry).
Middlesbrough: DLLDD (Last match - Middlesbrough 2-2 Peterborough).
QPR Team News
Rumours have been circulating on the message boards that Steven Reid has returned to Blackburn after apparently sustaining a hamstring injury. Rowan Vine is out, whilst Lee Cook is making progress in his recovery from knee problems. Angelo Balanta has been mysteriously sidelined since the opening day of the season (does anyone know when he is likely to be back?). Gavin Mahon and Martin Rowlands remain long-term absentees.
Throughout my time supporting the Rs, they've always seemed to play better at home against the sides at the top of the league. Last season was a perfect example, with the Super Hoops beating both Wolves and Birmingham at Loftus Road. Despite their league position, Middlesbrough are still one of the favourites to achieve promotion. However, is a victory really likely given the poor defensive performances we have seen in recent weeks?
I'm really looking forward to this one - both teams play attractive football and I expect this will be an open game with plenty of goalscoring opportunities. I'm going to predict a draw here, but the Rs are more than capable of gaining three valuable points if they produce a better defensive performance and take more of their chances.
Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Middlesbrough