Promotion-chasing Newcastle continue their quest for an immediate return to the Premier League when welcoming QPR to St James' Park on Wednesday. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter.
"Eight of the Magpies’ last nine wins have come after also leading at the interval."
Newcastle v QPR
Wednesday 1st February, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 1
Newcastle paid the price for fielding a weakened and inexperienced side on Saturday as the Toon were dumped out of the FA Cup in an embarrassing 3-0 reverse at Oxford. Rafa Benitez made nine changes to his team and made no secret of prioritising promotion over a potential cup run.
Aleksandar Mitrovic was the Magpies worst offender in a dismal display; the Serbian missed a catalogue of great first-half chances and looks unlikely to keep his place on Wednesday night. With top scorer Dwight Gayle injured, Daryl Murphy has notched three goals in as many matches and should return here.
United - the shortest-priced ante-post favourites in Championship history - will return to the summit of the second-tier with victory in the televised encounter.
QPR's recent four-match revival (W3-D1-L0) was brought to a shuddering halt on Saturday as the Hoops were well beaten at home by Burton. The quality, organisation and tempo that Ian Holloway's team displayed earlier in January was missing and the final 2-1 scoreline flattered the R's.
Rangers built their improvements upon shape, commitment and energy when ceding possession against ball-hogging sides such as Reading and Fulham. Asked to take the initiative at Loftus Road against fellow strugglers Burton, QPR failed to make any inroads.
Luke Freeman's addition will add much needed creativity to a side lacking in attacking inspiration whilst the potential signing of Matt Smith should at least give the R's a bit more ballast in the final third.
Newcastle recorded their biggest away win in the league since 1927 and handed QPR their worst home defeat in 96 years of league football when the two teams met in September at Loftus Road. Benitez's boys running out 6-0 winners.
The Magpies have bagged nine wins from their last 12 outings at St James' Park but you won't get rich quick backing the hosts at skinny 1.402/5 quotes here.
However, we can enhance that price to a very backable 2.0421/20 by supporting Newcastle/Newcastle in the Half Time/Full Time market. Eight of the Magpies' last nine wins have come after also leading at the interval.
QPR have failed to score in six of their last eight encounters with Toon and have been beaten in nine of their last 11 visits to top-six clubs. The capital club are 9.809/1 to upset the odds and depart with maximum points.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Newcastle have notched a league-high 54 goals in the Championship this campaign - seven more than the next best second-tier sharp-shooters. The hosts have been regular winners in the Over 2.5 Goals 1.845/6 market at home with 9/13 (69%) matches featuring three goals or more.
Visitors QPR haven't found goals as easy to come by and the Londoners tally of 27 is the joint-lowest in the division. And dating back to the beginning of last season, Rangers have produced only 12/36 (33%) profitable Over 2.5 Goals selections.
Considering Newcastle have scored at least three goals in 7/13 (54%) home outings, backing a goal-heavy game has its merits. But I'm happy to swerve the market with the R's likely to sit deep and play on the counter-attack, a style that's not always conductive to goal-heavy games.
Back Newcastle/Newcastle @ 2.0421/20