The Royals travel to Loftus Road on Tuesday evening off the back of a first win since August, but face another tricky test with QPR sitting pretty in fifth place.
After an average start which saw two wins, two losses and a draw in August, Mark Warburton’s men went on a four-game winning run before succumbing to defeat at home to West Brom. An unfortunate defeat to Cardiff followed, before seven goals in two games saw them defeat both Blackburn and Hull, conceding four goals in the process though.
Rangers like to line up in a 4-2-3-1, with a trio of exciting attacking midfielders usually playing behind one of (reported) long-term Royals targets Nakhi Wells (seven goals) or West Ham loanee Jordan Hugill (six goals). Hugill is likely to play to offer a threat similar to that of Borja Baston, Famara Diedhou and others. QPR could therefore perhaps target Reading’s weakness from crosses.
The pace and footwork of Bright Osayi-Samuel and star man Eberechi Eze (six goals), along with Elias Chair in the middle pose a huge threat to the opposition, with 21 goals already scored this season by the West London club.
However, 21 goals have also gone in down the other end, showing that Rangers seem to be quite vulnerable on the counter attack due to attacking intent of their midfield. With the likes of Josh Scowen and former Stoke man Geoff Cameron or Dominic Ball playing in the holding positions, QPR certainly have a lot of energy and dynamism in their midfield, something Reading will have to continue to match from the Preston game.
As the two holding midfielders are primarily defensively minded and excel at regaining possession, Eze usually has to drop deep to pick up the ball. This means Reading will have to be careful when pressing as one individual error could allow the young talent to break through the lines. If Pele gets caught out, we may see a few three vs threes.
Despite Rangers liking to control possession, Reading won’t mind the hosts having more of the ball and so attempt to hit them on the counter attack or force them into errors with a high press. With a defence lacking in pace (Ryan Manning and Angel Rangel the full backs), the likes of George Puscas and/or Sam Baldock could have a good night if they use their speed to their advantage, with John Swift and Ovie Ejaria perhaps having to endure more defensive duties to counteract the attacking threat. However, Yoann Barbet (a former Brentford centre back) and Toni Leistner are more than happy to be involved in the build-up play.
The Royals have more than enough quality to create chances against this QPR side, and hopefully won’t drop too deep and so invite unnecessary pressure on the defence. However, with five at the back, overloading one side of the pitch and switching the play (something Eze enjoys doing against overly defensive teams) should not have too much of an impact, but may pin back the full backs. Despite Reading having the quality to match the Rs' possession game, it’s clear that Bowen does not like to take risks at the back and so we should see a similar gameplan to the Preston game.