West Bromwich Albion welcome Queen’s Park Rangers to the Hawthorns on Saturday looking to make it three wins in eight days after they followed up the victory at Carrow Road with a Carabao Cup victory over Luton Town.
Steve McLaren’s team recorded their first win of the season with a 2-0 win over Peterborough United in their cup tie in midweek with both goals coming in the first six minutes. McLaren made six changes from the side that lost at Loftus Road to Sheffield United last weekend, but nonetheless achieved the victory that is a bright spot in what has been a troubled start to the season for the West Londoners.
The 2-1 home defeat to the Blades was preceded by an opening day loss at Preston North End, but McLaren and the Rangers fans will hope that the off-field tribulations are set to improve after Tony Fernandes and Ruben Gnanalingam stepped down as co-chairmen to make way for Amit Bhatia. With a turbulent few years culminating in July with a £17m fine for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations, it may be the start of better time for Rangers fans, although Fernandes remains the majority shareholder.
The former England boss needs to turn things round on the pitch, however, and hasn’t been able to do much in the transfer window due to Rangers’ financial constraints. Just three players have been signed, all on free transfers, with ex-Swansea defender, Àngel Rangel, being the only familiar name. Perhaps their best piece of business was to tie down 20-year-old forward, Eberechi Eze, to a new contract. Eze scored the R’s only league goal of the season last weekend, and looks to be a fantastic prospect, but there isn’t much else on the playing side to excite the QPR faithful.
For the Baggies, it was great to see Oliver Burke get his first goal for the club against Luton, and he made a plea to get more starts for the club in order to build up his confidence. Given the form of Albion’s front four of Gayle, Rodriguez, Barnes and Phillips, it seems unlikely that he will get too many starts anytime soon, but given the length of a Championship season, he is surely to get his chance at some point.
Perhaps the most interesting development from Tuesday evening was the decision to play a back three, and then to play Sam Field on the left hand side of that three. It is possible to see Graeme Jones’s influence given that Belgium played the same 3-4-1-2 formation at the World Cup and, while the result was as convincing as we might have hoped, it can be said to have been a success given that their were eight changes from the team that played Norwich.
With Townsend and Phillips playing wing backs, the formation allowed Harvey Barnes to play a free role behind the front two which perhaps suits him better – while he has been impressive going forward, he has not seemed to have been too keen on tracking back. Field was impressive in the back three and Harper also shone in midfield and it certainly provides food for thought for Darren Moore.
Regular readers will know that I have been concerned by the midfield two of Brunt and Livermore and the change in formation could offer a potential solution to provide more bodies in the centre when out of possession but we will have to wait and see whether Moore feels it is right to try it against QPR.
QPR’s last visit to the Hawthorns resulted in a 4-1 win for the visitors in one of Tony Pulis’s mini-crises. It was one of only two away wins for the R’s that season as they ended up bottom of the table, but it was their biggest ever win at the Shrine.
The Baggies’ biggest ever win over Rangers was in September 2007 when Phillips (2), Miller, Koren and Greening all scored in a 5-1 victory – Albion, of course, completed the double the following May to secure the Championship title.
Albion have lost their last three meetings with QPR, two of which were at the Hawthorns, but prior to that Albion had lost just one of the previous ten of Rangers’ visits to the Hawthorns. The defeat, a 1-0 reverse in October 1999, is the Baggies’ only home defeat to QPR in the second tier of English football.
Albion to build on their recent results and condemn McLaren’s men to their third defeat in three league games.
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All competitions; most recent game on the right
4 Apr 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Anichebe)
Queen’s Park Rangers 4 (Vargas, Austin, Zamora, Barton)
26 Dec 2012 – Premier League
Queen’s Park Rangers 1 (Cissé)
West Brom 2 (Brunt, Green (o.g.))
Last win at the Hawthorns
6 Oct 2012 – Premier League
West Brom 3 (Morrison, Gera, Mulumbu)
Queen’s Park Rangers 2 (Taarabt, Granero)
Albion’s Record against Queen’s Park Rangers
Pictures courtesy of Laurie Rampling