It’s Derby Weekend in SW6, with QPR making the short trip south to Craven Cottage. Fulham are chasing a 10th consecutive home win, and George Singer is here to calculate how Fulham can do it.
Their Recent Results
W: Aston Villa 1-3 QPR
W: QPR 1-0 Sunderland
D: QPR 1-1 Derby County
L: QPR 2-5 Nottingham Forest
L: Sheffield Utd 2-1 QPR
Our Recent Meetings
Sep 2017: QPR 1-2 Fulham
Jan 2017: QPR 1-1 Fulham
Oct 2016: Fulham 1-2 QPR
Feb 2016: QPR 1-3 Fulham
Match Odds with Grosvenor Casino
Fulhamish Tip: Fulham to score in the first 15 minutes is 17/10 with Grosvenor Casino
Hello and welcome to another edition of Before the Whistle! Today I take a look at our next opponents, neighbours Queens Park Rangers, and what to look out for as we aim to keep up the pressure on the automatic promotion places!
Last time we played
The last time we played was back in September at Loftus Road. A shaky performance from the Whites was enough to earn us a 2-1 victory, which at the time sealed our first back-to-back wins of the season.
After a tense first 45, it was the Whites who went into the half time break with a 1 goal lead. With a signature forward burst, Fredericks cut inside to the middle of the pitch and shot strongly from distance. A healthy deflection took the ball past Smithies and into the net, earning Fulham a perhaps underserved early lead.
The second half saw the game open up far more, and offered plenty of goalmouth action. Firstly, Fonte missed the chance to double the lead – blasting over a penalty won by the trickery of Neeskens Kebano. To his credit however, he quickly picked his head up and got back into the game. His strong hold-up play gave him the opportunity to cross for Johansen, who’s precise finish into the back of the net sent the away fans wild.
Rangers pushed hard in the closing stages in an attempt to get back into the game, and reduced the deficit in the 92nd minute. With plenty of time left (9 minutes of injury time were played!), an unlikely hero in keeper Alex Smithies almost completed a fairy tail comeback – heading just wide from a corner. However it wasn’t to be for QPR, and the Whites continued their strong head to head record against their bitter rivals.
Expected QPR lineup
According to Whoscored, QPR have set up in 10 different formations over the season, suggesting Holloway hasn’t yet managed to find a lineup he’s happy with. However, in the most recent game (an unexpected 3-1 win against Aston Villa), Rangers lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, spearheaded by Matt Smith.
The main change that we should expect to see is the return of Luke Freeman to the side. The midfield maestro was dropped from the game against Villa, due to being 1 yellow from a ban. He’s expected to slot back into the centre of midfield, with exciting winger Eberiche Eze likely to shift out to the wing.
Man to watch
My man to watch this week will be no stranger to Fulham fans of recent times – Matt Smith.
The former Whites striker left in January 2017 after struggling to break into the Fulham side. Since moving to Rangers, leaving behind his best mate Tom Cairney, he’s moved into a system which suits his strengths. He’s had a great attacking record this season, scoring 8 and assisting 6 – impressive numbers considering he’s played less than half of the available minutes so far this season.
As we know, Smith uses his height and physical size to great effect. Whilst not always being a composed finisher with his feet, he’s always thrived on lofted balls into the box and being able to out-jump centre backs. Unsurprisingly, of his 8 goals this season, 7 have come from his head:
As he’s started the last 6 games for Rangers, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in the starting lineup again. However, even if he’s limited to a cameo off the bench, when he’s on the pitch we’ll need to be wary of his aerial threat.
Notes for Slav
Whilst they’ve been a little unlucky to score as few as they have (QPR have scored 10 fewer goals than xGoals) this Rangers side is one that offers little variety and quality in attack.
However, we will absolutely need to prepare for a barrage of high balls into the box – which we will receive from set pieces, crosses and long throws from minute one. We’re in a better position than most to defend against these, with our 3 main CBs being relatively comfortable in the air. However Matt Smith is not your average Championship striker, and will cause us more headaches than most. If we’re able to keep our defensive organistation, especially late on in the game, we should have enough to keep them out.
As their season falls into lower-mid table mediocrity, this match surely becomes the biggest game of QPR’s season. Their players and manager will want to give the fans something to cheer about, after another dismal season, so they’re likely to come out of the blocks fighting and put early pressure on us. However, if they boys come out and give another strong performance, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t keep our magnificent unbeaten run going.
This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.