High-flying QPR meet Championship play-off-chasing Stoke in the capital on Sunday. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter...
"No Championship club has earned more points this calendar year than QPR"
QPR v Stoke
Sunday December 4, 14:30
Gray stunner seals late QPR win
A stunning 90th-minute finish from substitute Andre Gray propelled QPR up to third in the Championship table with a 2-1 victory over rock-bottom Derby on Monday night. With his back to goal, Gray turned and volleyed home the winner to deservedly give Rangers top honours, extending the club's unbeaten run to six, along with a third straight success.
On a night of brilliant goals, Tom Lawrence lashed Derby in front on 10 minutes before Chris Willock's volley brought the R's level five minutes into the second half. Ilias Chair and Yoann Barbet wasted excellent chances to put Mark Warburton's men in front before Gray's wonderful intervention sealed matters, after Chair's header had rebounded off the post.
Warburton was pleased with his team's response after giving away a sloppy early goal. He said, "We let ourselves down in the first half with a soft goal and what we had to do was step it up in the second half, and we did that. The finishes showed quality. We had to meet a stern challenge tonight and I think we did that. All credit to the players."
Stoke fail to fire
Stoke suffered only their second home defeat of the season last Saturday as Blackburn bagged a 1-0 triumph at the bet365 Stadium. The reverse - the Potters second 1-0 loss on the spin - saw Michael O'Neill's outfit drop out of the play-off positions with injuries and suspensions contributing to a weakened XI that had eight players unavailable for City.
The hosts had reason to complain about the winning goal, which originated from a goal-kick that should have been a Stoke corner after Mario Vrancic's long-distance effort was deflected around the post. But the Potters then won back possession, only to then lose it again, allowing Reda Khadra to take his chance with almost clinical efficiency.
Danny Batth's late goalbound flick was arguably Stoke's best opportunity in a drab game effected by windy and wintery conditions. Speaking post-match, O'Neill said, "The conditions made it difficult. We created as little as we have done here all season, but we've been in the top-six all season, so a little positivity wouldn't go amiss."
QPR are unbeaten in their past six Championship matches with Stoke (W3-D3-L0), which includes shutting out the Potters in both of last season's meetings. Go back further and Rangers have returned an impressive W9-D6-L2 over their last 17 home head-to-head match-ups with City since 1974. However, two of the most recent three here ended 0-0.
No Championship club has earned more points this calendar year than QPR 2.506/4. Mark Warburton's men have averaged 1.86 points per-game in 2021 and have tabled W10-D5-L3 this season when excluding the runaway top-two. The Super Hoops have proven particularly impressive on home soil (W6-D3-L1), silencing half of their 10 visitors to their capital base.
Stoke 3.1085/40 dropped out of the top-six last weekend following back-to-back 1-0 defeats. Nevertheless, the Potters have proven competitive opponents, posting W9-D4-L5 when excluding the top-two, although City's road record requires improvement (W3-D2-L5). Goals have been an issue for Michael O'Neill's men, scoring twice or more on only six occasions.
QPR remain the only Championship side to score in all 20 of their league encounters thus far, and the home side have been involved in plenty of enjoyable contests. Games have averaged 2.90 goals, with 13/20 (65%) banking for Both Teams To Score 1.758/11 bettors. However, at home, Rangers have tightened up with four clean sheets in six here.
Stoke's away days are averaging only 2.10 goals with BTTS banking in five of their 10 road trips and the same 50% return landing for Under 2.5 Goals 1.758/11 hunters. The Potters have notched only nine goals in games as guests, although Michael O'Neill's troops have gotten on the scoresheet in six of their last seven on their travels.
In a tricky contest to call, QPR Double Chance and Under 3.5 Goals appeals at 1.758/11. Rangers have lost just once at Loftus Road in 2021/22 with Stoke tabling only three away triumphs this term. Meanwhile, the duo have combined to see merely three of their collective 20 home/away fixtures feature four goals or more.
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Mark's 2021/22 Profit/Loss
Staked: 55 pts
Returned: 58.08 pts
P/L: +3.08 pts