QPR face a difficult test against Burton Albion at Loftus Road this afternoon.
Nigel Clough’s side are renowned for being difficult to break down, but what can we really expect from the Brewers?
We asked Burton Mail reporter Joshua Murray to get the scoop on the opposition.
What to expect from Burton Albion
Even after only eight games this season, it seems that Burton’s home form is going to be equally as important in keeping them in the Championship as it was last term. They have clinched seven of their eight points so far at the Pirelli Stadium.
But last Tuesday’s goalless draw at Norwich City showed they can be a tough nut to crack on the road as well – as they were at Loftus Road in January.
Nigel Clough’s side are unlikely to be overadventurous away at QPR, but will look to stifle the Rs and then hit them on the break. At Norwich, they soaked up plenty of pressure – which they thrive on doing – but also created some of the game’s best chances.
They will look to repeat that formula on Saturday, but add a bit of ruthlessness in front of goal as well.
Overview of transfer business
As expected, it was quite a busy summer on the transfer front for the Brewers. Clough has strengthened the squad across the park and ensured he has a deeper pool of options in each position.
At the back, former Derby County defenders Jake Buxton and Stephen Warnock were among the defensive signings to add more steel, while the midfield saw the addition of the likes of Hope Akpan, Rochdale duo Matty Lund and Jamie Allen – who have both impressed so far – and Leeds United loanee Luke Murphy, a classy and composed operator who keeps Burton ticking and who scored against QPR last term.
Up front was where Albion spent one of only two fees, breaking their transfer record in coughing up around £500k to sign Northern Ireland striker Liam Boyce from Ross County. Devastatingly for player and club, though, he ruptured his ACL in pre-season and is out for the majority of the campaign.
Sean Scannell and Joe Mason are among other forward players brought in to get the goals, though.
Results so far this season
After losing their first three games to Cardiff, Hull City and Middlesbrough – all matches Burton enjoyed spells of dominance in – Clough’s men have responded admirably.
They have lost only one of their five league games since, beating Birmingham City and, most notably, Fulham on Saturday. Clough called that his side’s best result since being promoted into the Championship.
With players getting up to full fitness and new combinations beginning to gel, there is a sense they are really finding their feet again.
Leeds loanee Luke Murphy is a vital cog in the Burton machine. He sits deep to shield the midfield when Albion are without the ball, and then has the classy range of passing to get them going when they get it back. He is such a calm operator, too, no matter the pressure his side are under.
Further upfield, Lucas Akins – with the club since the League Two title-winning campaign – has been superb up front so far. He is a powerful presence and can bring others into the game, but has the pace to cause problems himself. His versatility means he has played in central midfield in the last two games, and has also played out wide recently.
I would expect Clough to continue with the 3-5-2 that has served them well since a four-man defence was picked apart 5-0 at Leeds United right after the international break.
That allows them to keep a tight defensive line of five on the edge of their box when soaking up pressure, but gives the wing-backs licence to get up in support when breaking opportunities come.
The central midfield three also stagger depending on the situation to give them defensive solidity and an outlet in attack.
A predicted starting 11 and any notable team news
My predicted XI is: Bywater, Buxton, McFadzean, Turner, Brayford, Murphy, Allen, Lund, Warnock, Akins, Scanell
A predicted score and additional comments about how you see the game going.
Burton haven’t been in their most prolific form so far this season, but they have begun creating good openings and are catching teams open at times.
That being side, QPR have clearly started well and I can see them finding a way through at some point, especially with the momentum they seem to be building at Loftus Road.
Let’s go for a 1-1 draw.