|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers|
Saturday, 28th October 2017 Kick-off 15:00
All in the timing - Preview
Friday, 27th Oct 2017 22:02 by Clive Whittingham
QPR need to put a winless run and difficult week behind them when in-form, promotion-chasing, big-spending Wolves pay an aptly timed visit to Loftus Road on Saturday.
QPR (3-6-4, LDDLDD, 17th) v Wolves (9-2-2, WLWWWD, 1st)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday October 28, 2017 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Lovely, what’s wrong with ya? >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Not to sound too much like our strong and stable prime minister, but nothing has changed. A week ago Queens Park Rangers were a club embroiled in a legal battle against an enormous Financial Fair Play (FFP) fine, and they’re still a club embroiled in a legal battle against an enormous FFP fine today. While Wednesday’s news from the arbitration hearing was certainly very, very bad, it hasn’t changed the situation in the short or medium term. This will drag on a while yet.
QPR’s ability to pay such a fine remains the same as well. Despite ongoing cost cutting the club needs handouts from its owners just to exist from week to week and season to season as it is, so any fine of any amount (never mind the £40m mooted) would have to be met by them as well. QPR cannot generate £40m for themselves without a promotion so either a legal victory is achieved, a more realistic agreement is reached with the league, the owners bail out and sell the club to a buyer for the cost of the fine, or the club goes bust. That, too, was the case before and remains the case now.
Doomsday may come, but it didn’t come on Tuesday, so it’s eyes back on the pitch this Saturday for the ironically timed visit of big-spending league leaders Wolves.
They represent formidable opposition. Nine wins and just two defeats from 13 games, top of the fledgling league table, a league-leading 24 goals scored. You could say that’s par for the course, and to be expected, given the calibre and cost of players they’ve signed, but plenty of clubs have been down their path before and failed miserably, as they did themselves last season.
Appointing a big name with a questionable managerial record, and no experience of British football, like Walter Zenga to oversee a Championship season smacked of the latest more-money-than-sense owners turning up from the Far East and making a right hash of things. Subsequently handling the flashy signings over to Paul Lambert was like asking a chimp to compose you a symphony and rolled back the years to when QPR beautifully brought to together the footballing educations and philosophies of Real Madrid’s Daniel Parejo and Argentinean youth international Emmanuel Ledesma with the learned teachings of Iain Dowie.
Doing so under the guidance of a football agent, even one as successful and connected as Jorge Mendes, also tends to set alarm bells ringing. The last time a board was ‘advised’ (legally that’s as much as it can be) by an agent to the extent Mendes is ‘advising’ Wolves it was Blackburn Rovers taking on the Venky’s, and Steve Kean, and God knows how many awful footballers (including the agent’s own son) from Jerome Anderson and, well, we know how that went.
But it seems that the players Mendes has ‘advised’ Wolves’ way are simply too good for this level. Little surprise when we’re talking about players like Ruben Neves, a Champions League player and youngest ever captain of Porto at 17. They just have to make sure they follow through and get promoted now, either this year or next, because although the FFP rules have been relaxed, although they’re now judged over three years, and although Wolves insist they haven’t gone as mental as the headlines suggest, there’s no way this squad is being bought, paid for, and salaried, without at least running the rules (£39m loss over three years) close.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens at Sheffield Wednesday, who embarked on a similar mission (though mostly with British signings) under Far Eastern ownership a year earlier. They openly stated they needed promotion within three seasons and their poor form in this, the third of those, clearly has nerves jangling in South Yorkshire. The chairman trying to persuade supporters to shell out four figure sums for Premier League season tickets in advance, which may of course never materialise, suggests it’s time to stop listening to the string quartet and start eyeing up a lifeboat.
Meantime, QPR will have all on holding onto the team they have assembled. Wolves have an excellent record on this ground – one defeat in 14 – and won here last year when they were mostly terrible. They’re not infallible, Preston poked holes in their defence plenty of times at Molineux a week ago, but the quality of their attack, and QPR’s ongoing struggles in defence, gives an ominous look to the fixture. While it would be very QPR to play the bottom two and fail to win (as they did last week) and then play two of the top three and suddenly start winning, it’s hard to imagine players of the quality of Diogo Jota not clicking through the Joel Lynch turnstile a time or two tomorrow afternoon.
If Rangers can start strong, maybe get an early goal, then perhaps we’ll have one of those days at Loftus Road where we come back of the canvass swinging and cause a few bloodied noses. Ian Holloway has done that plenty of times already in his 298 games in charge of the club to date and would love to get the old place rocking with a win against the odds again. An early Wolves goal, and domination of the ball, and after everything that’s gone on already this week the whole place could fall as flat as a witch’s tit.
No wins in seven and a queue of people waiting to predict financial Armageddon for their beloved club, if ever a group of supporters needed to be thrown a bone, it’s the QPR faithful this Saturday.
QPR have only beaten Wolves once in 14 attempts at Loftus Road, but when they did it was a hell of a goal that settled it.
Team News: Jack Robinson is strapped up and back in training after breaking his hand but James Perch is still relocating his knee and Nedum Onuoha’s hamstring still looks like a crocodile’s been at it so the defensive problems continue. I’m starting to think we’ll see Lord Lucan in QPR colours before Grant Hall but Jordan Cousins did make it as far as the bench last weekend having not played at all since January 7. Steven Caulker might play, but it’s the big annual Halloween bash down the Cat and Fiddle tonight with a five-pint prize for the best fancy dress. He’s going as a professional footballer, which will take some doing, so I wouldn’t count on his availability tomorrow.
Kortney Hause is back after his long layoff with scabies for the visitors but Wolves are likely to revert back to the team that beat Preston a week ago after a gruelling 120 minutes in the Zenith Data Systems Trophy against Man City on Wednesday. Helder Costa is still working his way back from six months of cold water shock and will be on the bench with Leo Bonatini continuing in his place up front. Barry Douglas had a torrid time against PNE while Conor Coady and Danny Batth were two of the few first teamers who did the full 120 during the week so there maybe changes there. You can get an ointment for Willy Boly, which he’s obviously discovered as he’s back in training.
Elsewhere: The atmosphere and scraf whirling from the Champions of Europe lasted precisely two minutes tonight before the Sheffield Red Stripes set about them as they have the rest of the division so far this season and won 2-1 this evening, briefly lifting themselves to the top of the league pending other results.
A run of Sky derbies continues on Sunday when Big Racist John and the Boys face Birmingham and the TV action continues on Saturday night with the Allam Tigers hosting the Nottingham Trees. There’s an early kick off between the out of form Sheffield Owls, managerial change presumably imminent, and Barnsley which leaves eight for the 15.00 slot.
Relegated Bolton are the luncheon guests for Tarquin and Rupert while Brentford do the same journey in reverse to play away at Preston Knob End – surprised they didn’t make those four do that on a Tuesday night. Likewise Middlesbrough coming down to Reading while Bristol City go up to Sunderland.
The Ipswich Blue Sox will look to recover from defeat in the Old Farm Derby with a win at Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion while Borussia Norwich, and their impressive youngster James Maddison, could build on that success with a home win against the Derby Sheep.
Millwall Scholars are the latest visitors to the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour
Referee: Tony Harrington, who was the referee for Conor Washington’s controversial disallowed goal at Blackburn last season, is the man in the middle for this one. His last QPR appointment was the 2-1 home win against Barnsley towards the back end of last season. Three of his last five games have involved Wolves. More details here.
QPR: Two games against the bottom two in the league yielded only a pair of 1-1 draws on the road last week, leaving QPR without an away win in seven attempts this season and no successes on the road in 14 attempts going back to February and the 4-1 win at Birmingham. It’s been better at home, where Rangers have lost just one of eight this season, but that was the last time out at Loftus Road against Fulham extending a winless run to three which includes draws with Millwall and Burton. Overall QPR are now six without a win, and have only beaten Wolves once in 14 attempts on this ground (five defeats, seven draws). Rangers have dropped 10 points from leading positions this year, only Brentford (14) have a worse record and only the Bees (129) have had more shots on goal than QPR’s 112.
Wolves: Although they were eventually beaten on penalties at Man City in the week, the 0-0 draw in regulation time means it’s three clean sheets from four games for Wolves who arrive here on a run of three consecutive league wins. They’ve lost just one of their last 12 games in all comps (not counting the shoot out) and have a formidable away record of five wins, two draws and a solitary defeat at their fellow high flyers Sheffield United. There are five players tied on seven goals at the top of the Championship scoring charts and two of them – Leo Bonatini and Diogo Jota – are Wolves players. Only Hull can match Wolves’ 24 goals scored this season.
Prediction: Spot on for the third week in a row at Bolton. If you think you can do better it’s the last chance to win the October prize from the sponsor of this year’s Prediction League, The Art of Football. We’ll be handing out prizes from their QPR Collection at the end of October, January and to the overall winner. Our reigning Prediction League champion Southend Rsss tells us…
“This looks a really tough assignment for QPR against the league leaders, especially with everything that has gone on off the field this week. You’d like to think it might bring everybody together, get the ground jumping, and force the team over the line for a much needed win. But I can’t help but fear Wolves will have just too much quality for our patched up defence.”
Craig’s Prediction: QPR 1-3 Wolves. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-3 Wolves. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla
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