The top 2 clash at Turf Moor and the winner is likely to be on top going into November.
Burnley currently top of the Championship with 29 points in 12 games, whilst QPR sit in second with 27 points despite having played a game less than their title rivals. Burnley don’t know what it is like to lose at home this season, winning 4 and drawing 2. Additionally, QPR don’t know how to lose altogether with 8 wins and 3 draws for the season and 3 wins and 2 draws coming away from home.
The match on Saturday will be the first of many highly anticipated league games this season as the Championship looks to be as competitive as ever, both at the top and the bottom.
There are 5 key battles for the game on Saturday, in my opinion.
Harry Redknapp will have to be at his best to out-fox Sean Dyche who is finally getting some of the credit he deserves.
Dyche has been a very good championship manager since he first appeared on the scene at Watford. In some pretty tough times for the Hornet’s off the pitch, he still managed to finish well above the expected standard. Due to the change in ownership he was relieved of his duties at Vicarage Road and eventually found himself at Burnley. Despite the fact he had to endure a brief transitional period he seems to have worked wonders with the side, bringing out the best in his key players. The record-breaking start to the season is an accolade that endorses the Kettering born manager no more than he deserves.
Harry Redknapp who really needs no introduction has steadily grown into the job at the West London club. A bitterly disappointing season in the Premier League which ensured relegation meant a lot had to be changed. The former Tottenham manager isn’t afraid of trying something new and bringing in Steve McClaren seemed to be a master-stroke and revitalised the ex-England managers career as well as Harry getting some top class coaching for his side and that showed as up to that point they had only conceded two goals in the league. He has built an incredible good Championship side which leaves most fans in awe but the pressure is on, and winning Saturday will prove he can still handle the expectation.
Jason Shackell vs Charlie Austin
The Burnley skipper goes head to head with his former team-mate Charlie Austin. Both players are in fine form, with Shackell playing the best football of his career to date. Charlie Austin has currently hit form right on time and has scored 6 goals in his last 6 games. This will be one of the top battles in the league to date.
Danny Ings vs Richard Dunne
On the other side of the pitch, a similarly key battle will be commencing between the exuberant Danny Ings and the unmovable object in Richard Dunne. The former Manchester City man has made a career out of being able to read the game as well as any defender I have seen. He was never blessed with pace or mobility yet he always makes sure he is in the right place at the right time. Danny Ings who is an intelligent player in and around the box he will be looking to make angles and get the better of Dunne, who will offer him his hardest test yet.
Dean Marney vs Niko Kranjcar
When Niko Kranjcar was signed on the final day of the transfer window I imagine there were 23 managers in the Championship that were rubbing their head. A player of such finesse, class and ability should never be enticed to play in the Championship but Harry convinced him to get on board to the envy of everyone else. He has grown into his position at QPR, picking up MOTM in their last game, looking that bit extra-special. Dean Marney will be the man who is on duty to limit the amount of time he gets on the ball and lead the Croatian into games and positions he doesn’t want to play. Marney is an experienced midfielder with plenty of Premier League experience playing against players with such quality. I feel his know-how to deal with Kranjcar could be key on Saturday.
Players and teams are naturally inconsistent; the difference between a good team and a great team is consistency. The match on Saturday will be one of the first high-profile and high-intensity games of the season, so the pressure will be on. Therefore, both teams need to take stock and make sure they’re not dragged into doing things differently. A battle will be lost on both sides of the pitch, somewhere along the line it will be down to whoever turns up with highest number of good performers on the day, who will win the game.
QPR have more know-how, being able to boast a team of such experience with players that have played all around the world and at the top level. Burnley’s team in comparison is locally farmed with players looking to make that next step in their careers. They will be the more determined out of the two sides Saturday, no doubt in my mind. However, if they don’t follow the procedure that they have previously then there is no better team in the league to punish you than QPR.
Who do you see winning?
image: © Ben Sutherland