How QPR will approach Carabao Cup clash with Sunderland and how Mark Warburton's side could line up after Everton scalp
Sunderland are preparing to face QPR in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup – but what can Lee Johnson’s side expect at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium?
Rangers beat Everton on penalties to reach the last 16 of the competition and are seventh in the Championship after 14 league games this season.
Mark Warburton’s side were beaten 2-1 by Peterborough at the weekend, though, after Posh striker Siriki Dembele scored a stoppage-time winner.
Like Sunderland, the league is clearly the priority for Rangers this season – so how will they approach the match against the Black Cats?
We caught up with Clive Whittingham from QPR fan site LoftforWords to get the inside track on Sunderland’s next opponents ahead of Tuesday’s match.
How has the season gone for QPR so far?
CW: “Pretty well. We finished last season very strongly, 15 wins after New Year which was the best in the league bar Watford and Norwich and after a proactive summer in the transfer market optimism was high for a play-off push in 2021/22.
“We’re on course for that so far, currently sitting seventh as one of a clutch of sides on 21 points. We’ve lost to the top three away from home, which given respective budgets and wage bills is probably to be expected – unlucky at Bournemouth, poor at West Brom, outclassed at Fulham.
“Other than that a very freaky loss to Bristol City where their goalkeeper had an unbelievable afternoon, and then a loss at Peterborough on Saturday which was the first real under performance and big disappointment of the season so far.
“We’re trucking along quite nicely considering we haven’t had a fully fit team for a game yet this season, nor really hit our full potential of performance for a full 90 minutes.”
How seriously will they take the Carabao Cup game against Sunderland?
CW: “Very, I hope. QPR haven’t been in the quarter final of any cup since 1995, and the quarter final of this competition since 1988/89.
“Our record in both League Cup, where we’ve lost to a League One side in each of the last three seasons and most of the ones before that too, and the FA Cup, where we’ve gone through a whole load of disasters against Vauxhall Motors and others, has been a source of real embarrassment.
“I hate to see clubs that stand little or no chance of competing at the top end of their league bailing out of the cups deliberately with scratchy team selections to concentrate on securing that sixteenth place finish, and that’s been us far too often.
“A couple of years back Steve McClaren changed the whole team for a game against a poor Blackpool side, lost, and then lost the weekend league game at Swansea regardless – that didn’t go down well.
“Sunderland will be a very difficult game, but it’s a big opportunity for us and must be viewed as such, even though we are absolutely fighting on the league front this year.
“Warburton doesn’t really do weakened teams. He’s all about respect, integrity, standards.
“We had a game away at West Brom on the final day of 2019/20 that most of us didn’t even want to win because they were competing with Brentford for promotion, and we certainly didn’t want Ebere Eze to get injured as we were about to get £20m for him from Palace. Warbs picked the strongest team, Eze scored, we got a draw, West Brom went up anyway. We don’t have that big a squad to shuffle anyway so I’d expect a strong side with a few changes.”
What system do you expect QPR to play?
CW: “The improvement midway through last season was predicated on a switch to a back three, as well as the arrivals in the January transfer window.
“We’ve started with that system this season but it’s starting to come under the spotlight a little bit because of the amount of goals we’re conceding (fourth worst record in the league) and the weekend defeat at Peterborough.
“Once you’ve got three centre-backs, two wing-backs, Ilias Chair and Chris Willock, and sometimes two strikers, that doesn’t leave a lot of numbers for the midfield and we’re getting exposed a bit through there.
“Stefan Johansen, so good for us last year, is labouring a bit trying to do the job of two or three players. Warbs has been a 4-2-3-1 man for most of his career so I’m starting to wonder whether we might switch to that if these defensive problems continue.”
Who are the players Sunderland will need to look out for?
CW: “Ilias Chair and Chris Willock play behind the main strikers and are our most talented players who make the team tick.
“Lyndon Dykes has been in good scoring form for club and country. There isn’t a lot of blinding pace in the team, unfortunately, since Bright Osayi-Samuel left.
“We’ve scored at least once in our last 28 consecutive games, honing in on a club record and the longest such record in the country at the moment so we do tend to pose a goal threat even when not at our best."
Finally, what is your predicted line-up?
CW: “Total guess, as always in the League Cup. We often change the keeper, usually rest Johansen and Sam McCallum is carrying a hamstring injury…
“Let’s say… Archer; Adomah, Dickie, De Wijs, Barbet, McCallum; Amos, Dozzell, Chair; Willock, Gray.”