THE R’s have a difficult challenge on the weekend when facing high-flying Ipswich Town at Loftus Road. We take a look at where Ipswich have been so successful this season and what the key battles are on Saturday.
Luke Freeman v Cole Skuse
Much of what the stand in Ipswich skipper Skuse does seems to go unnoticed but he’s a vital part of the way Mick McCarthy’s side set up. The midfielder has begun this season excellently, starting in every match of the Tractor Boys successful start.
The 31-year-old is assured on the ball but vitally gives those in front of him the license to freely attack and this new found approach from Ipswich has seen them score nine goals this campaign with only Cardiff and Hull finding the net more often than the side from Suffolk.
When Ipswich played Fulham in their last match Skuse pretty much man-marked Fulham playmaker Tom Cairney and it would not be surprising to see Luke Freeman get the same treatment. The R’s number seven has been in fine for this season contributing with three assists – the joint highest in the Championship.
Steven Caulker v Joe Garner
A proper old-fashioned centre-forward, Garner is almost guaranteed to be a nuisance for the Rangers defence on Saturday. The Ipswich front-man has developed a reputation over the years for being the first line of defence with his constant harrying of defenders and his high press which is crucial to the way Ipswich play.
But that’s not to suggest that the former Rangers forward is just a work-horse as Garner possesses a decent technique and a few seasons ago scored 26 league goals to help Preston North End win promotion from League One. He has three strikes to his name this campaign.
Caulker made his first league start of the season against Cardiff before the international break and may be called upon again with both Grant Hall and Joel Lynch doubts for this match. The ex-England man has the qualities to keep Garner quiet but will know he’ll have to be on top of his game and fully concentrated throughout the 90 minutes.
Matt Smith v Jordan Spence
Spence has perhaps been Ipswich’s most consistent performer this season – playing in a position which is not totally natural to him. The 27-year-old is known more as a right back but this season has played at centre half for McCarthy’s side in both a 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 formation.
The former MK Dons player is comfortable on the ball for the most part and has struck up a good understanding with his defensive partner Jonas Knudsen. He also notched a crucial winner against Millwall in the 88th minute – demonstrating that he can also be a threat at the other end of the field.
After finding himself as a substitute for much of the opening part of the season, Smith came off the bench and scored against Hull City and was rewarded with a start against Cardiff – a game which he opened the scoring in.
The big target-man may look to situate himself alongside Spence, knowing that he’s more of a right back and could find some success especially aerially – meaning Rangers might have to go more direct to exploit a possible Ipswich weakness.