MX23RW : Saturday, July 21 07:41:40
Mar 22, 2014 at 3pm UK at ​Riverside Stadium
QPRQueens Park Rangers
Friend (18')
Chalobah (66'), Friend (72'), Kamara (75')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Benayoun (45'), Zamora (94'), Morrison (95')
Carroll (23'), Kranjcar (32'), Benayoun (76'), Barton (76'), O'Neil (92')

Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Queens Park Rangers

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Championship clash between Middlesbrough and QPR at the Riverside.

With their hopes of automatic promotion all but ended on Tuesday, Queens Park Rangers go into Saturday's match against Middlesbrough looking to consolidate their place in the playoffs.

The R's suffered a torrid time at Hillsborough in midweek, having a man sent off before losing 3-0 to Sheffield Wednesday, a result that manager Harry Redknapp admitted ruled them out of finishing in the top two.

That defeat kept them fourth in the Championship table, 10 points behind second-placed Burnley and resigned to the fact that their only likely route back into the Premier League is now via the playoffs.

Their position in the top six is certainly not yet guaranteed, however, with a hungry chasing pack looking to feed off any scraps given to them by the teams above.

QPR are just seven points clear of Reading and Brighton & Hove Albion in seventh and eighth respectively, while the Seagulls could cut that gap to four should they win their game in hand.

There are other teams more vulnerable than the Hoops at the moment, but Redknapp will know that the most important thing is to secure their playoff place as soon as possible. With such a financial burden on the club, failure to finish in the top six could be catastrophic.

Their form has been shaky in recent weeks, however, with just two victories from their nine matches since the start of February - a run that has also yielded five defeats.

Only Brighton have scored fewer in the top 17 of the table, while the Seagulls are also the only side who can boast a better defensive record than QPR this season.

That defence will be weakened by a suspension to Richard Dunne following his red card against Wednesday, however, and Redknapp could replace the centre-back with Yun Suk-Young.

At the other end, the strikeforce will look to improve on QPR's record of not having scored in seven of their last nine away games in all competitions, but they will have to do it without the injured Charlie Austin and Matthew Phillips.

Kevin Doyle is also doubtful for the visitors, while Alejandro Faurlin and Danny Simpson remain sidelined with injuries of their own.

Middlesbrough, meanwhile, are comfortably hovering in midtable and will be looking to begin their building phase for next season now.

Sitting 12 points off the playoffs and 13 above the relegation zone, Boro will have no aspirations or fears of being dragged into either battle, meaning that they can play with a certain freedom that may have been lacking earlier in the season.

One thing that certainly has been lacking of late is a goalscoring touch - Aitor Karanka's side have found the back of the net in just two of their last 10 matches, managing only three goals and one win in that time.

On the other hand, they have established themselves as a tough team to break down and a formidable defensive unit having kept six clean sheets and conceded just four goals in that 10-game spell.

They are particularly hard to get past at the Riverside, where they have been beaten just twice all season in the league, although four of their last five home outings have resulted in draws.

The hosts will now have their sights set on a top-half finish, but they will have to do it without Mustapha Carayol, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament injury.

Recent form

Middlesbrough: LDLWDD


Possible starting lineups

Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos; Varga, Omeruo, Gibson, Friend; Leadbitter, Chalobah, Adomah, Tomlin, Ledesma; Graham

QPR: Green; Onuoha, Hughes, Hull, Yun; Barton, Jenas; Hoilett, Morrison, Kranjcar; Zamora

Sports Mole says: 0-0

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QPR manager Harry Redknapp on the touchline during his team's match against Burnley on October 26, 2013
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