Queens Park Rangers host West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day off the back of a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United at the weekend, leaving them 3 points adrift from safety, having played a game more than Southampton. The mini revival under Harry Redknapp – in which QPR went 4 games unbeaten and picked up their first 3 points of the season – came to end at St. James’s Park, with the manager labeling his players “average” and “on far too much money”. It’s no secret that QPR need to be winning their home games from now to the end of the season if they are to have a chance of survival. In similar fashion to fellow relegation candidates Wigan Athletic, QPR are lacking the ability to “fight back” (see articles by Jonny Grossmark). QPR have conceded first on 12 occasions this season, leading to 0 wins, 4 draws, and 8 losses.
[caption id="attachment_23918" align="alignright" width="213"] Harry Houdini[/caption]
WBA however, will be travelling to QPR in buoyant mood. Nicely poised to challenge for a European place, the Baggies ended their 4 game winless run with a 2-1 victory against an in-form Norwich City, amid concerns regarding the absence of influential midfield duo, Youssuf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob. Steve Clarke has excelled in the first half of this season and again showed his credentials at the weekend, introducing Marc-Antoine Fortune and Shane Long early in the second half to swing the balance of play in WBA’s favour. WBA have been more adventurous in the final third under Clarke this season, whilst building on the defensive capabilities established under Roy Hodgson.
A lot has changed since the corresponding fixture in December 2011. Both sides were comfortably placed in midtable, something QPR fans can only dream of this time around. Helguson gave QPR an early lead before WBA equalised late on through Long.
QPR will be without 6 first-team players. Bobby Zamora, Andy Johnson, Kieran Dyer, Julio Cesar, Jose Bosingwa, and Park Ji-Sung are all sidelined. WBA have Mulumbu available after his suspension and the midfielder is expected to start, despite the versatility of Gera, Morrison, and Dorrans giving Steve Clark a selection headache. However, Yacob – who has the highest % of tackles won in the EPL (80.77%) – is likely to miss out, as is Steven Reid.
Ones to Watch
QPR have been reliant on Abel Taarabt to make things happen in the final third. Taarabt has the joint most assists (2) and has created the most clear-cut chances (6) for QPR this season. Despite the heavy pitch at St. James’s Park at the weekend, Taarabt was not afraid to carry the ball and drive forward, accounting for 27% of the attempted dribbles in the whole match and creating the joint most chances for QPR (2).
[caption id="attachment_23919" align="alignright" width="210"] Match Winner: Lukaku[/caption]
Clarke has plenty of options in the final third with likes of Long (5 goals), Peter Odemwingie (4 goals), and top goal scorer Romelu Lukaku (6 goals). QPR will need to be wary of the pace, power, and aerial threat of Lukaku. Norwich struggled with the aerial dominance of WBA, with the likes of Olsson, McAuley, and Lukaku, especially dangerous from crosses and set-pieces.
It’s no secret that QPR need to start winning their home games if they are to have any chance of survival. And despite the disappointing result at Newcastle, the first win of the season in their last home outing against Fulham will have at least installed some confidence in the side. QPR have been difficult to beat under Harry Redknapp, with the defeat to Newcastle United at the weekend being his first. But given QPR’s inability to fight back and win games in which they concede first, and the attacking options at Steve Clark’s disposal, expect both sides to be going out for the win.
A simple Poisson distribution taking into account home advantage in the EPL, the defence weakness (goals conceded) of both sides, and the attacking strength (ability to score goals) of both sides so far this season, indicates the following expected goals:
QPR: 0.85 goals
WBA: 1.54 goals
However, it is worth considering the recent improvement in the form of QPR since Redknapp's arrival, the need for QPR to win their home games, and the increase in expectation of further goals should a goal be scored 0-20 minutes.