09:30 Saturday 08 February 2014

Championship pressure firmly on QPR and Leicester City says derby County head coach Steve McClaren

Written bySTEVE NICHOLSON

STAR-STUDDED . . . Steve McClaren says the QPR squad is packed full of Premier League players, including Richard Dunne, who is pictured closing down Simon Dawkins STAR-STUDDED . . . Steve McClaren says the QPR squad is packed full of Premier League players, including Richard Dunne, who is pictured closing down Simon Dawkins

DERBY County head coach Steve McClaren believes there is greater pressure on Leicester City and Queen’s Park Rangers to win promotion this season than on the other clubs in the top six.

Leaders Leicester City have moved 10 points clear at the top of the Championship and the Foxes are determined to make up for last season’s disappointment when they lost at the semi-final stage of the play-offs.

Queen’s Park Rangers are second ahead of their visit to face Derby at the iPro Stadium on Monday night.

On the subject of pressure to win promotion, McClaren recalls the three months he spent working at QPR as a coach under manager Harry Redknapp.

He knows how important a return to the top flight is for the London club.

“It isn’t a case of might (win promotion), it is a must, a need, and that is a huge difference,” said McClaren.

“Leicester have now put themselves in the same position where they must because they are that many points ahead.

“It (promotion) is for the top two to throw away – Leicester City especially and likewise for QPR.

“Here, at Derby, it is not about ‘we have to go up this season’.

“We have got ourselves in a very, very good position and we are dreaming at the present moment.

“That is the reality for teams like Burnley and ourselves.”

McClaren says Rangers’ squad strength and experience will see them through this season.

“They will go up, and I know that even more from working with the group, with Harry Redknapp and the staff, Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan,” said McClaren.

“It is no surprise where they are. They have got Premier League players and a Premier League squad. They also have the experience.

“The players, pretty much like these players at Derby, have a great attitude and a great togetherness.

“QPR have rightly been in the top three all season and I expect them to stay there and finish in the top two.”

McClaren is looking forward to seeing Redknapp again and going head-to-head, as they did at Loftus Road in November when Rangers won 2-1.

“I keep in touch more with the QPR staff than Harry, but it will be good to see him on Monday,” said McClaren.

“That’s football, from working together in harmony you are now bitter rivals.

“We have always had great respect for each other and even more now we have worked together for a short period.

“We have a great rivalry and have had great results against each other in the past.

“That respect will be there no matter the result on Monday.”

Derby are fourth in the Championship and four points behind Rangers – but nine points ahead of the team just outside the top six, Ipswich Town.

Nottingham Forest are fifth and Reading sixth.

Today, Leicester go in search of a 10th consecutive league win when they face Watford at the King Power Stadium where they have lost just once in the League this season.

Burnley, who are third, also have a home game. They welcome Millwall to Turf Moor.

Forest will climb above Derby if they beat Blackpool at Bloomfield Road.

The Reds are 14 games unbeaten in all competitions and have not lost an away game in more than three months.

Reading have also hit form.

The Royals have won four of their last five league games scoring 16 goals and conceding four.

Of the teams knocking on the door of the top six, Ipswich travel to take on Barnsley with Blackburn Rovers at Middlesbrough.

Brighton entertain Doncaster Rovers while Wigan Athletic are away to Huddersfield Town.

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