Middlesbrough vs QPR  preview: Warnock's Teesiders look to move further clear of the drop zone
Neil Warnock prowls the touchline in his first game as Middlesborough boss (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

As the end of the EFL Championship season draws near, struggling Middlesbrough face mid-table QPR in what could be a crucial game for both teams. 

Middlesbrough come into the game having taken three points from their last two games since Neil Warnock took charge, following the sacking of previous boss Jonathan Woodgate. On Thursday, the Teeside club lost 2-1 to fellow strugglers Hull City. Since the turn of the year, Middlesbrough have won only three from 14 league games. A win on Sunday would strengthen Boro's survival bid, and remaining in the league would be a silver lining to a poor second half of the season.

Due to the convoluted nature of the EFL championship table, QPR are not assured of safety. Despite sitting on 50 points in 15th position, the London outfit have lost each of their last three matches. . Whilst a gap of seven points to the drop zone is a reasonable cushion, Rangers will be looking to end their recent slump with victory in the North East.

Key Battle:

QPR frontmen Jordan Hugill and Eberechi Eze have notched 12 goals each this term, but may have their work cut out on Sunday. Neil Warnock's physical, defensive style will have been quickly stamped on Middlesbrough, and the QPR forwards will be faced by physical defensive midfielder Jonny Howson and centre back Dael Fry. Despite keeping two consecutive clean sheets away from home, Boro have not managed one on home soil for 7 matches. A shutout on Sunday would go a long way to helping Boro secure a positive result.

Previous meeting:

November's reverse fixture saw an entertaining 2-2 draw at Loftus Road. A double from Britt Assombalonga ruled out a Nakhi Wells strike, and an own goal from Middlesborough's Jonny Howson.

Team News:

Boro central defender Daniel Ayala has left the club on a free transfer after rejecting a new short-term deal.

QPR have no major injury concerns, and manager Mark Warburton should have a full fit side to choose from this weekend. 

Predicted lineups:

Middlesbrough (4-3-3): Stojanovic, Spence, Fry, Friend, Johnson, McNair, Howson, Saville, Roberts, Fletcher, Assombalonga.

QPR (4-2-3-1): Kelly, Manning, Barbet, Hall, Rangel, Ball, Cameron, Osayi-Samuel, Chair, Eze, Hugill.

Managers' comments:

Neil Warnock spoke to the media before the game: "My lads are responding and working hard, that's all they can do. I've no magic wand as such. I just want them to be organised, and try and give ourselves as much opportunity as we can to pick up points, and scramble over the line.”

Mark Warburton spoke to the official QPR website: "We know we can go to any venue and play, but we are getting sharper and quicker with the games now. We let ourselves down against Barnsley and Charlton, but we were much better on Tuesday.”

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