Middlesbrough’s show was more eye-catching than most, knocking Manchester United out on penalties at Old Trafford. After his players rose to the occasion on Friday night, manager Chris Wilder knows he must get things right ahead of a game of greater importance to his club.
Queens Park Rangers may not have the glamour of the Red Devils, but promotion is Boro’s priority and Mark Warburton’s Rs are six points and three places higher up the Championship.
Wilder will need to pick the right team at Loftus Road, and that might mean being brave. It is something he is aware of and looking forward to.
“We have to monitor them,” he says. “It’s a fine balance between work and rest. They had an extra day off as well.
“They understand the recovery is really important with what they do away from the football club. Any club that wants to do well, there has to be a huge connection between every part: medical staff, sport science staff, coaching staff and myself to make sure we are ready to go again.
“The players are all ready. They understand that if we want to be successful in the second part of the season, we have to call upon them all. They have to be ready.”
Scorer Matt Crooks underlined what Wilder must guard against.
“Normally he covers more distance than anyone in our team,” Wilder points out. “But the back story with Crooksy, him being a (Manchester United) supporter and in the academy, and he couldn’t move after 65 minutes.
“From an emotional point of view, he was a player who really did get drained. So we have looked at the players in training. We have that ability to change it now. I’ll be brave enough to change it. If I have a gut feeling that we need to change it then I’ll make the tough decision. I’ve always gone with a gut feeling.”
One player who could freshen things up is midfielder Riley McGree, who went away on international duty with Australia immediately after signing from Major League Soccer side Charlotte.
Last six games: Queens Park Rangers LWDWWD; Middlesbrough DWLWWW.
Referee: D Whitestone (Northampton).
Last time: QPR 1 Middlesbrough 1, September 26, 2020, Premier League.