After handing Alex Neil his first win as Stoke City manager on Tuesday, The Potters again hit the road on Saturday to take on QPR. Going into this weekend, Stoke City sits at 11th on the Championship table with 11 points. As for QPR, they sit at 8th on the table with 14 points.
A win for Stoke City on Saturday would pull them even with QPR for total points this season. That would bring them up to around 8th on the table going into the international break. A draw for Stoke City would mean sticking around 12th on the table going into the break. Either way, Neil will want his squad to come out of that break in good standing on the table.
How will Stoke City line up against QPR?
Coming off of Stoke City’s best performance of the season against Hull City, there’s little chance that Alex Neil changes things Saturday. Stoke City will most likely start the game in a 3-5-2 against QPR.
Lining up in the 3-5-2 again for Stoke City should present some pluses and challenges for the team against QPR. The pluses will be Stoke City’s ability to have Dwight Gayle and Liam Delap hold up the ball and link play up at the top of Stoke City’s attack. That should help give Stoke City some bouts of possession and a rest defensively.
The challenges for Stoke City in a 3-5-2 will be amplified in this match however. Chris Willock and Illias Chair have been fantastic wingers in QPR’s 4-3-3 formation. If Josh Tymon is fit at left wing-back and Jacob Brown gets the call again at right wing-back, they will have to be cautious not to let Chair or Willock have too much space to run into behind them.
Starting XI Prediction:
Stoke City Manager Alex Neil gave his injury update at Thursday’s press conference. With who’s available and some major unknowns with Jack Bonham’s goalkeeper status, this is how Stoke City could start the game against QPR: Bursik – Tymon – Fox – Flint – Wilmot – Brown – Baker – – Thompson – Smallbone – Delap – Gayle.
If Dujon Sterling is fit enough, there’s no doubt his defensive acumen would give him a start over Brown at right wing-back in this matchup. Nothing points to that happening though. So Neil most likely lines up with the same lineup as Tuesday.
Prediction for Stoke City vs QPR:
It’s simple. If you want to have a chance at promotion, these challenging games against top teams are the ones you have to grab points from. Whether it be just a point or the even better three points, Stoke City has to get a result more often than not in these types of games.
QPR is a very talented team and even tougher on home turf. You add to that Stoke City’s struggles against the QPR side on the road and you have a rubber meets road scenario.
The huge key for Neil’s Stoke City side on Saturday, should Jacob Brown start again, is to limit Willock’s space down the left side of QPR’s attack. Brown, a natural forward, had all types of issues Tuesday in the first half with Hull City constantly finding through-balls into space behind him down the left side. Which is why you shouldn’t be shocked if Brown is the one change Neil makes Saturday.
But, Alex Neil doesn’t have any issue playing aggressive with who he starts at wing-back.a
“I think unfortunate for him (Brown) at the moment, he’s the best-suited guy for the job…When I have played wing-backs before, they were both wingers. I like to be aggressive in possession,” – Neil at Thursday’s press conference.
That could force Brown to play more conservatively if he does start. Which is why this game might at best be a game Stoke City will need to steal all three points with a late goal. Stoke City will want to stay compact in their shape defensively deeper and try to counter attack when possible. Most likely Stoke City grabs a point with a low scoring draw 1-1- or 0-0. Or, The Potters lose a low scoring game to QPR 1-0 or 2-0.