A London derby of sorts. Now, it’s not going to be the footballing highlight of your life but consider this.
You’re strolling through a footballing desert, with nothing in sight. Your mental and physical states are starting to deteriorate. In the distance, you spot something that looks like a schoolboy in clothes far too big for him, and a haircut somehow still too old for him.
As you get closer, you can hear the boy barking out orders, but he’s doing so in a posh south London accent. This stroll through the international break-filled wasteland is long and full of dangerous, but it appears now that Scott Parker is here to save the day.
Football is back, folks. Drink it all in.
Ironically enough, the only teams to score more goals than Fulham at home are QPR and Preston North End, so you can already guess what way I’m leaning with this. It’s defensively where Fulham need to buck up, but luckily for them, QPR have scored just nine times away from home this season. For comparison, Luton Town have scored 11 times in the same conditions.
So while this one might seem even enough in the table, the home/away splits really favour Fulham. Craven Cottage is one of those pitches that you can really grab an advantage in, as the dimensions are unique – similarly, I suppose – to Loftus Road in that regard.
Fulham keep the ball. It’s all they do, in fact. So the points tally and goals-scored metrics might not do them justice in that regard. They’re not far off being the most complete outfit in the Championship, and time is very much paramount in this scenario, given how long it takes for a club otherwise not used to retaining the ball to do so.
This is the part of the season where you’ll begin to see it pay off.
Selection: Fulham to win @ 8/11
The logic for this is the usual lag that comes after the international break.
For far too long, there’s been a real drop in performance levels after a long period with no club games. You could definitely make the argument that smaller clubs could play their Carabao Cup games if neither side was hampered by the international duties in their squads.
But no, the first half an hour of this game will not be pretty, nor will it be fast-paced, which is often the accepted trade-off for that. So, if we make it through that long, there’s every chance both sides will accept going in level at the break, especially as niggly injuries and breaks in play are common in these games.
Selection: Half-Time/Full-Time: Draw/Fulham (7/2)
With the suspension of Aleksandr Mitrovic hampering their goalscoring conquests, Fulham will have to alter their approach somewhat.
Instead of playing off a frontman like the Serbian, they might go through channels to Kamara.
Given the lack of pace in the QPR frontline, that’s the primary approach.
I suspect this will be a tightly-fought game and pace will be the deciding factor.
Selection: First Goalscorer Aboubakar Kamara @ 4/1
*Prices correct at time of publication