Preston North End v QPR preview: Familiar look for first-day visitors

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Queens Park Rangers will have a familiarity about them when they arrive at Deepdale to face Preston this weekend.

It is little more than three months ago that the sides met, North End beating QPR 2-1 at Loftus Road in April.

The West Londoners have had a change of manager since then, Steve McClaren taking over from Ian Holloway.

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But much of the squad has remained the same, with not a great deal of business done over the summer.

Callum Robinson is challenged by former PNE defender Alex Baptiste in the game at Loftus Road in AprilCallum Robinson is challenged by former PNE defender Alex Baptiste in the game at Loftus Road in April
Callum Robinson is challenged by former PNE defender Alex Baptiste in the game at Loftus Road in April

Toni Leistner has been their only signing to date, the defender joining from Union Berlin.

A handful have moved on, notably goalkeeper Alex Smithies who joined Cardiff City for £.5m and centre-half Jack Robinson, who signed for Nottingham Forest.

The core of the squad has remained intact – that includes ex-Preston defender Alex Baptiste – something Alex Neil sees as a strength rather than a weakness.

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“Sometimes familiarity can be a good thing,” PNE boss Neil told the Post.

“I certainly don’t see that as a weakness for QPR.

“They have shown well in their pre-season games.

“I thought both of our matches against them last season were tough.

“At their place in April they were better than us in the first half and we were better in the second half.

“When we played them at Deepdale, I thought they were the better side until they had a player sent off.

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“After that we took control of the game and managed to go on and win.”

Holloway’s second spell as Rangers boss ended in May, McClaren quickly installed as his replacement.

The 57-year-old brings with him plenty of experience on the coaching front, both on these shores and abroad.

Neil thinks QPR have made a good choice in McClaren.

“Steve is a good coach, he gets his teams organised, they have a method of play which we are aware of. We have done our work on QPR, our analyst went to watch them twice during pre-season and we have watched the video of four of their games.”

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QPR ended their pre-season games on a winning note, beating Union Berlin 3-0 at Loftus Road.

It was a game and result which gave plenty for McClaren to be positive about.

He said: “We are growing but we are nowhere near yet. I have been encouraged by the attitude of the players.

“They are trying to do what we want them to do, and what we do in training we want to see in the games.

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“As long as we keep the belief, we will get stronger and stronger as the season goes on.”

QPR will be looking for an improvement in their away form this season.

They won only three games on the road last term.

Midfielder Josh Scowen said: “I didn’t think that we played badly in the away games last season but our results weren’t good and we needed a bit of luck that didn’t seem to come.

“Hopefully we can get that first victory under our belt on Saturday.

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“We know we are going to get a fight at Deepdale but we need to concentrate on ourselves and if we do that I think we will get the result.”

What will be testing for QPR this season is how they handle financial matters.

They were fined £17m this week for breaching financial fair play rules, a breach which goes back to 2012 when they overspent way beyond their annual turnover.

It could be said that the breach worked in their favour as that was the season they won promotion to the Premier League.

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QPR also had to pay £3m legal costs to the Football League, while an agreement has been struck for the club’s shareholders to write off £22m of debt.

The club will also be the subject of a transfer embargo for the January 2019 window.