R's host title chasing Seagulls tonight
QPR host Brighton & Hove Albion under the lights in what is the final Friday night fixture of the season.
With just six league games remaining much of the emphasis for the R’s is trying to finish the season as high possible and looking to build momentum ahead of next year.
The same however cannot be said of this evening’s visitors Brighton. The Seagulls sit in 2nd place in the Championship and only need three more wins to secure automatic promotion to the Premier League. Victory tonight would go a long way to obtaining their ultimate goal.
Chris Hughton’s side have, for a few years now, been one of the divisions top performing clubs. Since they won promotion to the Championship back in 2011 they have shown significant improvement each year bar 2014/15 where they had to fight off relegation. This season they have not been outside the top six since October - highlighting their remarkable consistency.
Hughton deserves so much of the credit for what Brighton have done especially in the last two seasons. Whilst they may not have the attacking flair of some of the teams in the league, Brighton are extremely hardworking, defensively sound and have the individual quality to sweep past teams in the division.
But the worry for them will be that they have not always performed in the final stages of the season. Last year was a prime example when despite being the clear favourites to gain promotion - they were comfortably defeated 3-1 over two legs by Sheffield Wednesday in the play-offs even though they ended the domestic campaign 15 points ahead of the Owls. The south-coast outfit certainly won’t want to see a repeat of that and that is why automatic promotion is so important to Brighton.
They were 3-1 winners against Birmingham City on Tuesday thanks to goals from Glen Murray, Tomer Hemed and Uwe Hunemeier.
Rangers will want to ensure that a promising second half of the season doesn’t end in disappointing fashion. Performances wise the R’s have been very good since the middle of February with the exception being last week’s defeat to Derby County.
The Hoops certainly deserved more against Aston Villa midweek but will want to get back to scoring goals after firing two blanks. In the last game at Loftus Road Holloway’s side hit five past Rotherham and he will be hoping the team can produce that same kind of form against, with all due respect to Rotherham, much better opponents.
When the two sides met back in December Brighton were victorious in quite a convincing manner - coming out 3-0 winners. Whilst the Seagulls undoubtedly deserved to win, the game was turned when the ref controversially sent off R’s Captain Nedum Onouha at the start of the second half. Anthony Knockaert was in inspired form that day and Rangers will have to do a lot better job of keeping Brighton’s star man quiet tonight at Loftus Road.
QPR: Midfielder Jordan Cousins (thigh) has been ruled out for the rest of the season whilst Kazenga Lua Lua is ineligible with Brighton being his parent club.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Brighton will check on the fitness of Lewis Dunk and Sam Baldock. Defenders Shane Duffy (metatarsal) and Connor Goldson (heart surgery) are still side-lined for the promotion-chasing Seagulls.
Predicted line up: Stockdale, Bruno, Hünemeier, Dunk, Bong, Knockaert, Stephens, Kayal, March, Hemed, Murray
Key Player: Anthony Knockaert – One of the league’s most dangerous forwards and has scored three times in his last two games against QPR.
PRE MATCH TALK
Ian Holloway: “This is a chance to show the real us, because we didn’t do that the last time we were on Sky Sports. Brighton are heading in the right direction and look like they’re going to get over the line. But these points are the hardest to get when you’re going for promotion – and we’re going to try and spoil that. It’s a great opportunity for us and one we’re really looking forward to. “
Chris Hughton: “There’s a group of teams below us that are very strong and I think they’ll win a high percentage of their games, so I expect it to drag on. We’d like to be in a position where our fate is determined before the real latter part of the season. That's in our hands but it can also depend on other results as well. It's more in our own hands because we have to make sure we get the results. We'd rather it was our results that determine things than having to wait for others.”
QPR win: 5/2
QPR first goal scorer: Conor Washington 13/2
Aston Villa first goal scorer: Glenn Murray 4/1
LAST TIME OUT
Brighton 3 - 0 QPR - Championship, Tuesday 27th December 2016
Brighton goal-scorers: Baldock, Knockaert, Murray
HEAD TO HEAD
(In all competitions)
QPR wins: 30
Brighton wins: 31
Referee: Simon Hooper
Assistant Referees: Daniel Robathan and Akil Howson
Fourth official: Geoff Eltringham
Any early mist or fog soon clearing then dry with sunshine, although some cloud may develop in places. Feeling warm by the afternoon in many areas. 5% chance of rain.
WEEKEND’S OTHER LEAGUE FIXTURES
All kick-offs 3pm unless otherwise stated
Birmingham City v Derby County
Blackburn Rovers v Barnsley
Bristol City v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Burton Albion v Aston Villa
Cardiff City v Brentford
Fulham v Ipswich Town
Leeds United v Preston North End
Norwich City v Reading
Nottingham Forest v Huddersfield Town
Wigan Athletic v Rotherham United
Sheffield Wednesday v Newcastle United (5:30pm)