Things are looking up for both QPR and Fulham after a productive few weeks in which both teams have clawed their way up the Championship. With their slick passing football Fulham are starting to look like the real deal, while QPR have discovered some resilience under Ian Holloway who has lifted the Hoops to mid-table. Let’s find out who will triumph in the West London Derby.
Tried and Trusted
It’s a fair bet that QPR have made more glamorous appointments in the last few years, but at a time when they seem to be returning to some sort of sanity, Ian Holloway makes perfect sense.
His style of football can be a bit one-dimensional, but barring a blip at Millwall, you can’t criticise his record at Blackpool or Palace. He gave them both Premier League football after long periods out of the top flight.
Many people, us included, were praising the choice of Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink last year after his great work at Burton Albion. But the Dutch manager hardly lasted three months this campaign.
The Hoops were flirting with the drop, but odds of them going down have lengthened dramatically since Christmas, after three straight wins that have lifted them to 17th, eight points above relegation.
Just don’t expect it to be pretty.
Backs to the Wall
You could put money on QPR setting out just as they did for their successful trip to Reading. In that match The Hoops had only 27% of the ball, but were sharp on the counter and ended up having more shots than the Royals, running out deserved winners.
The combative Grant Hall will surely step up from defence into midfield again. He may look a bit cumbersome in the role, but his time further forward has coincided with this upswing in results.
Along with the tireless Luongo he’ll be needed to try to keep Fulham’s tricky midfielders in check.
Luongo the Lifeblood
Indeed, the Australian midfielder has been a rare bright spot this season. He had a small dip in form around Christmas, but when he’s in full flight he breathes life into the team with his breathless industry.
But when he’s not tearing around the park chasing the ball, Luongo also has a subtle side and is adept at bringing the ball forward and occasionally releasing the likes of Wszołek and Sylla further forward.
QPR Predicted Lineup:
Smithies; Furlong, Onuoha, Lynch, Bidwell; Luongo, Hall, Manning; Wszołek, Sylla, Mackie
Crazy Time of Year
OK, so we know there’s a reason why it’s called “silly season”, but this year the Premier League money has started to trickle down to the Championship. This puts Fulham in a strong position with midfielder Tom Cairney.
He’s easily been their best player this season, and if Newcastle are going to get hold of him in the next couple of weeks the word is that they’re going to have to fork out more than of £20 million.
Cairney’s outrageous volley against Wolves a few weeks back shows that he’s got Premier League-level technique, but Fulham will be rubbing their hands if they can get that amount for one player.
If it wasn’t for a dreadful September in which they went seven matches without a win, Fulham would be up there in the promotion places at the moment. They’ve been flying under the radar, and have only lost once, to league-leaders Brighton, since the end of November.
It all follows a long-term trend for the manager Slaviša Jokanović, you steered Watford to the Premier League before losing his job that same summer.
Coming to Craven Cottage in the wake of Kit Symons’ underwhelming stint, the Serb has brought stability and a continental football style. His efforts were recognised last month when he won the Manager of the Month award.
Princes of Possession
The Championship is still a frantic league with matches played at a dizzying tempo, but it’s a competition that also rewards teams that try to keep the ball on the ground. Everyone remembers Swansea under Rodgers and Martínez.
Yet no team can match the Cottagers for pass accuracy, which is 83.2%, and when you see that they have more shots per game than any other side in the league you understand why they’re on an upward curve.
Given how the manager has transformed the team, any transfer income brought in by Cairney would be wisely reinvested. But you can bet that Fulham have far better odds of coming up this season with the midfielder in the team.
Alongside Lucas Piazon and Stefan Johansen, Cairney is crucial to Fulham’s passing game, which is very easy on the eye. Last weekend they simply dismantled Barnsley, and while Sone Aluko and Chris Martin are vital outlets, the ideas and inspiration come from deeper.
Predicted Fulham Teamsheet:
Button; Fredericks, Kalas, Ream, Malone; Johansen, McDonald; Aluko, Cairney, Piazon; Martin
When Will QPR vs Fulham Take Place?
It’s a 12:30 kick-off at Loftus Road on Saturday 21 January. Did you know you can stream this match for free?
QPR vs Fulham Match Prediction
The away team has the better of the head-to-heads, having won four of the last six matches between these two sides. Fulham will surely take the initiative here and try to dictate play in the way they’ve done all season.
QPR’s revival has been founded on pragmatic football, so we’re predicting a big clash of styles. Both teams come into the game having grabbed impressive results last weekend, but we think some very exciting things are happening at Fulham at the moment.
So with or without Cairney our money is on the Cottagers to get the points at QPR. They’ll score early and force the Hoops to come out, and will walk away with a 1-3 win.