Derby v QPR – Championship Playoff Final Preview
QPR face Derby at Wembley in what has become the most lucrative game in world football; the Championship playoff final. Ciaran Bonass previews…
A double from Charlie Austin in the second leg of their playoff semi-final against Wigan saw QPR come from behind to win 2-1 (both on the night and on aggregate) and earn the chance of promotion to the top flight at the first time of asking. Harry Redknapp’s side needed extra-time to overturn a Latics side who showed the effects of playing over 60 games this season and another three and a half hours of football over four days in the two legs.
QPR are now five games without defeat, with only one loss in seven and despite stumbling badly in the second half of the regular season – when they were easily overtaken by both Leicester and Burnley for an automatic return to the Premier League – they have been comfortably part of the promotion picture since very early in the campaign. The R’s will also be making their first appearance at Wembley in 28 years on Saturday.
Ex-Burnley striker, Austin, added took his tally for the season in all competitions to 20 with his crucial brace that entirely changed the complexion of the game at Loftus Road last time out, an impressive total in just 36 appearances after he suffered a lengthy injury absence halfway through the season. The 24-year-old striker has now scored five in his last five appearances and his importance to Redknapp’s sides chances are well illustrated by the fact that on-loan Ravel Morrison was next on their list of top scorers with six despite only arriving in January.
Derby cruised past Brighton in their playoff semi-final winning 6-2 on aggregate following wins in both legs. The Rams came from behind to earn a 2-1 win away from home in the first leg before sealing their spot at Wembley with a resounding 4-1 victory at Pride Park in the second as they completed a perfect record of four wins from four over the Seagulls this season in the process. Steve McLaren’s side have now won seven of their past eight games and finished third in the final Championship table but were still eight points adrift of Burnley.
Chris Martin scored in each leg of the semi-final -his third and fourth against Brighton over the course of the season and has bagged 25 goals in 50 appearances for the club this term.
QPR are without Jermaine Jenas with a cruciate ligament injury and Matt Phillips with a fractured leg with the midfield pair both absent until the beginning of next season at the earliest. Redknapp has no new injury concerns after Niko Kranjcar was passed fit despite aggravating a hamstring problem in their second leg win over Wigan.
McLaren is expected to field the same starting XI which won so convincingly in the semi-final, with only squad player Paul Coutts missing through injury.
Both sides earned home wins in their earlier meetings this season, with John Eustace atoning for the own goal which handed QPR the crucial goal in a 2-1 victory at Loftus Road last November by scoring the only goal of the return. Of their last ten meetings both have won three.
Derby are marginal favourites to win in 90 minutes at 11/8 and that looks more than acceptable for a team in their form that have scored 21 times in their past eight games. Both teams have scored in each of the Rams last five too so that looks a good punt too at 10/11 while the 5/4 on Over 2.5 goals to be scored in normal time is also well worth looking into.