The Lions jump into midweek action this Wednesday (kick-off 7.45pm) in the Sky Bet Championship looking to build on the weekend’s 1-1 draw against Leeds United by seeking a positive result at Loftus Road against Queens Park Rangers.
Neil Harris’ men make the trip across to West London 20th in the League table following the Leeds draw and last night’s matches. Steve McClaren’s QPR side sit a point and a place above The Lions having won 2-1 away at Bolton Wanderers last time out, despite having the second-worst defensive record in the League so far, conceding 14 goals, and scoring the joint-least (five).
Queens Park Rangers were founded in 1882, playing almost all of their home matches at Loftus Road since 1917. The club have spent much of their history in the top three divisions of English football, and are into the fourth season of their current spell at Championship level following relegation from the Premier League in 2015. The Hoops have alternated between the two top divisions for the past decade, and were part of the inauguration of the Premier League as they spent 13 years in the top flight between 1983 and 1996. During this time, they managed three fifth-place finishes and competed in the UEFA Cup. The club reached the quarter-finals of the same European competition in 1977, losing on penalties to AEK Athens after finishing second in the old First Division the previous year. QPR have been champions of the Championship or its equivalent twice – most recently in 2011 – as well as three further promotions, and lifted their sole major honour, the League Cup, in 1967 as they triumphed over West Bromwich Albion in the Final. The West Londoners were runners-up in the same competition in 1986, four years after reaching their only FA Cup Final to date.
Ones to Watch
Massimo Luongo (21) joined QPR in 2015 from Swindon Town, having impressively built his League career after leaving Tottenham Hotspur as a 20-year-old. Now about to turn 26, Luongo has become a mainstay in the Hoops’ midfield, as well as racking up 35 caps for his native Australia. A key engine room-style central player, Luongo possesses powerful tackling ability and provides a combative link between defence and attack. Though not renowned for his goalscoring ability, the midfielder does pop up with the occasional strike, notching five international goals and seven for QPR. Joining Spurs’ academy setup in 2011, Luongo made one first-team appearance in the League Cup before joining Ipswich Town and Swindon on loan. Signing for the latter permanently in 2013, the Australian established himself as a reliable central midfielder, and was subsequently picked up by the West London side two years later. Luongo was notably on the scoresheet in our last trip to Loftus Road, ending in a 2-2 draw.
Luke Freeman (7) was a key figure in the QPR team last season, totalling 12 assists along with five goals. The creative and dynamic midfielder is able to operate centrally and out wide, and represents McClaren’s most threatening set-piece outlet with his free-kick and crossing ability. Consistently involved in the Hoops’ attacking exploits, Freeman scored the opening goal in the weekend win at Bolton. Freeman was an England U17 international whilst playing for Arsenal’s academy, and joined Stevenage in 2013 following a loan spell. Making over 100 League appearances for the Hertfordshire side, Freeman then spent three years with Bristol City, making the PFA Team of the Year as the team won the League One title in 2015. The 26-year-old has now been at QPR for over 18 months, becoming one of McClaren’s leading marksmen.
Eberechi Eze (10) is a name familiar to plenty at Millwall. The attacking midfielder and forward spent two years in South-East London as a youth prospect between 2014 and 2016, highly regarded as one of the most talented players amongst the academy on his day. Eze since moved across the capital to Loftus Road, where he has excelled this season and scored two league goals – including the eventual winner in their last outing. The Greenwich-born 20-year-old started his fledgling career at Arsenal, and moved to The Den with high hopes of making the first-team fold. After signing for QPR two years ago, Eze played in the youth sides before impressing last season in a loan stint with Wycombe Wanderers, prompting McClaren’s faith in him to contribute well this campaign at Loftus Road. Although not yet internationally recognised, the exciting dribbler and finisher has trained with the national side of Nigeria, his country of heritage.
Nahki Wells (32) has been considered a coup for McClaren since signing on a season-long loan deal from European qualifiers Burnley at the end of August. Brought in following a poor start to the campaign, Wells carries plenty of pedigree at this level, having bagged 45 Championship goals in four seasons with Huddersfield Town including three in three against Millwall, before moving to Turf Moor in 2017 and making nine Premier League outings. Starting his football in his native Bermuda – for whom he has nine caps and five goals – Wells signed for Carlisle United in 2011 following a trial, and later became a prolific striker in Leagues One and Two for Bradford City, scoring 53 goals in three years. Still just 28, Wells still has plenty to offer and is expected to be an important figure this term.
In the Dugout
Steve McClaren has been in the English game for many years, with varied success but a high profile. The 57-year-old’s first managerial role came with Middlesbrough, guiding the club to its first major trophy as they lifted the League Cup in 2004. His highest-calibre job then came with the England national team, taking charge following the 2006 World Cup finals. However, McClaren’s failure to qualify England for Euro 2008 resulted in his departure, then taking over at Dutch side FC Twente – winning the club’s first ever Eredivisie title in 2010 in the first of two spells. Having also managed Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest and Newcastle United, McClaren’s last role came at Derby County, whom he left in March 2017, before arriving at Loftus Road at the end of last season.