Queens Park Rangers will be hoping to avoid another ‘cruel blow’ as they travel to the Riverside Stadium this weekend to face Middlesbrough (Saturday, kick-off 3pm).
Boss Steve McClaren was keen to point out the positives after the Hoops fought back twice on Tuesday evening against West Bromwich Albion before conceding a late winner.
McClaren urged his team to find belief and said: “We will come out of this. We will come out stronger and better. That’s football – you just have to keep fighting until it turns.”
The mid-week defeat was their sixth league loss in a row, and with two more Championship front runners to negotiate in the space of four days, maintaining belief will be essential.
Currently occupying 18th in the table, the Hoops have a five point cushion to Wigan Athletic and Millwall and, after Boro, face Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United at Loftus Road the following Tuesday.
West Brom’s 94th minute goal meant once again QPR’s resilience and performance was in vain and perhaps points to a failure to see games out when it matters.
However, should QPR’s winless run stretch to eight league matches after Tuesday it will perhaps provide a clearer insight into the team’s failings but for now it is obvious that aside from results, you cannot fault the effort.
There is likely to be personnel changes at the weekend as well – Matt Smith was taken off at half-time against the Baggies to be replaced by Ebere Eze and there may even be a chance for Tomer Hemed to feature.
McClaren will also be praying for the fitness of star player Luke Freeman who was forced off in mid-week with an injury which left the side to play out the remaining 10 minutes of the game with 10-men as all three substitutions had already been made.
Regardless, it will take another strong team effort, a slice of luck and a few big performances to rattle high-flying Boro’s cage.
Boxing Day remains notable for both sides; you can find QPR’s last league win alongside Middlesbrough’s last home defeat but nevertheless, the stats point in Boro’s favour this time around.
Prediction: 2-1 Middlesbrough