Championship Gameweek 18: In-form QPR to Defeat Underperforming Stoke?4 min read
Arguably the biggest underachievers of the Championship season to date have been Stoke City.
The Potters possess one of the Championship’s most expensively-assembled squads, yet have won just five of their 17 league encounters, the same number as transfer embargoed Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday.
Each of those victories come with a caveat, too.
Comfortable 2-0 home wins were against relegation contenders in Hull and Bolton, plus the 1-0 home triumph over Swansea was an even game decided by a fortuitous goal from Joe Allen.
The two away victories, meanwhile, were 1-0 smash-and-grab jobs at Bristol City and Norwich.
Granted, the Potters might consider themselves slightly unfortunate not to take maximum points from their two trips to South Yorkshire, where they drew 2-2 with Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham, while perhaps their play against Birmingham did not merit the 1-0 defeat.
However, Gary Rowett’s side have also relied greatly at times on the goalkeeping heroics of Jack Butland, who has made key saves in the last two games: 0-0 draws with Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest.
In fact, the Staffordshire outfit have taken on average just 11.8 shots per game – only the 17th-most in the division – and conceded 12.8 per game – the eight-most.
Most teams possessing the calibre of players Stoke do should be expected to at least control proceedings most weeks and they are not doing that at present.
It seems surprising, therefore, that they are available to back for victory at odds-on quotes when they face a Queens Park Rangers side in sizzling form.
Queens Park Rangers have won four out of their last five matches
Over the last 12 Championship games, the West Londoners have accrued seven wins and 23 points, giving them a better record than every other side in that timeframe bar Norwich.
With Nahki Wells running the channels with searing pace, technician Eberechi Eze is thriving in the extra space in the number 10 position.
Luke Freeman, on the left side of midfield, offers excellent quality of deliveries as Jordan Cousins offers balance on the right, with Massimo Luongo providing drive in midfield next to the security of Geoff Cameron, who will want to impress at his old stomping ground.
The solidity of this Rs side, who have conceded eight goals in 14 in all forms when young goalkeeper Joe Lumley has started, means that there is protection for the centre-backs.
Joel Lynch and Toni Leistner are not the quickest and thus struggle in open spaces – as we saw back in August – but veteran right-back Angel Rangel has added security since joining while Jake Bidwell is steadily improving at left-back, so Lynch and Leistner’s remit is merely to head crosses away, something they are far more comfortable doing.
Toni Leistner and Joel Lynch look vulnerable when asked to defend open spaces, but when their remit is merely to head crosses away, they are far more comfortable.
The Hoops have won four of their last five league encounters and are excellent value to pile the pressure on the underperforming Potters.