QPR’s winless run to continue
QPR 3.185/40 v Swansea 2.427/5; The Draw 3.39/4
QPR‘s winless run was extended to eight games at the weekend, with the R’s conceding a late goal to Wycombe at Adams Park. It’s been slim pickings for the West Londoners in recent weeks, and although they’ve avoided defeat in three of their last four outings, they’re proximity to the relegation zone is beginning to put fans on edge.
Mark Warburton continues to look for solutions but his side lack quality in the final third and don’t appear to be able to produce the goods across a full 90 minutes. Fans have accused the former Brentford boss of lacking a Plan B, and the pressure is slowly beginning to mount on the 58-year-old.
Although the club’s shot data is slightly above average, their lack of cutting edge appears to be holding them back. Only seven clubs have scored fewer goals than QPR so far this season, and they’ve failed to find the back of the net in three of their last five. It’s not entirely doom and gloom however, with Warburton having significantly improved the club’s defence this term. They’ve conceded just 11 times in their first 10 home fixtures. Last season, they shipped an average 1.83 goals per game here. This much improved defensive solidity appears to be at the expense of their attacking output.
QPR will be looking to strengthen in January and reinforcements in the final third are an absolute necessity. With Derby having hit form, and Rotherham proving effective on home turf, the R’s are in danger of getting dragged into the relegation dogfight, and with a chronic lack of confidence in the final third, they must roll the dice at the start of 2021.
Swansea put in another extremely accomplished and professional performance at the weekend as they eased past Barnsley at the Liberty Stadium. It was the perfect way to bounce back from a disappointing midweek outing against Derby, and Steve Cooper‘s men remain firmly in the promotion picture.
Although the Swans have plenty of players who are capable of producing moments of individual quality, their success this season is built on extremely solid foundations, and their defensive stats are impressive. The Welsh club have kept 11 clean sheets in their opening 20 Championship outings, and have conceded the fewest goals in the division.
Despite losing two of their last three away games, Cooper’s men have been breached on just eight occasions on the road, and they should find it relatively straightforward to keep the hosts at arm’s length this weekend.
Swansea’s away games have been extremely tight, averaging 1.80 goals, and there is unlikely to be much between these two sides. However, the visitors are playing with far more confidence in the final third. Swansea can be backed at 2.427/5 on the Exchange and are likely to head back down the M4 with all three points
Barnsley’s superb form at Oakwell to continue
Barnsley 2.226/5 v Huddersfield 3.814/5; The Draw 3.259/4
It’s an all-Yorkshire affair at Oakwell on Boxing Day, and the hosts will be feeling confident of picking up their sixth home victory of the campaign. The Tykes have been excellent here in recent months, with only high-flying duo Brentford and Bournemouth having left this venue with maximum points so far.
Valerian Ismael‘s young side have been a little inconsistent, however, and they are fairly reliable on their own patch. Having recently seen off Wycombe and Preston here, they’ll be confident of making it three in a row. Last weekend’s defeat to Swansea was disappointing, however, and they struggled to find any rhythm on a poor quality pitch, finding it difficult to break down the division’s meanest defence. The absence of Callum Styles didn’t help but the hugely talented 20-year old will return from suspension ahead of this fixture.
The Tykes squad isn’t packed with talent but they have a number of young, hungry players who undoubtedly have the talent to succeed at this level. Mads Andersen has significantly improved since the introduction of Michael Sollbauer and Alex Mowatt continues to be one of the division’s most consistent performers.
Their games tend to be decided on fine margins, although they haven’t drawn a game since October 24th. They’ve won four of their last six, and with the return of the impressive Styles, they are understandably priced up as favourites for this.
Huddersfield continued their impressive home form at the weekend, beating poor travellers Watford at the John Smith’s Stadium. Carlos Corberan‘s side were handed an early Christmas gift by Ben Foster, and rarely looked like conceding throughout the remainder of the tie. At home, they’ve won their last four but their record on the road leaves plenty to be desired.
Their last away success came on October 31st, and they have failed to find the back of the net in each of their last four. Corberan’s side must find a way to start picking up points on the road, and with a number of tough looking trips on the horizon, they will see this as a chance to stop the rot.
Marcelo Bielsa’s former assistant has undoubtedly improved the Terriers, and the style of football is far more enjoyable to watch. His side lack a bit of quality in the final third, though, and he must be backed in the January transfer window.
Barnsley’s home form has been quietly impressive and, having conceded just ten goals here, they will fancy their chances of edging this tie. The Tykes have plenty of ability in the final third, and are not afraid to pour forward. It could prove too much for the goal-shy visitors, and at 2.265/4 on the Exchange, the hosts are worth backing at Oakwell once again.
Derby to make it back-to-back Championship victories
Derby 2.47/5 v Preston 3.1511/5; The Draw 3.259/4
Derby have been slowly improving under Wayne Rooney, and the caretaker manager is now unbeaten in six. The Ram’s defence has been relatively solid throughout the campaign but they’ve routinely failed to convert their chances. They come into this game off the back of four consecutive clean sheets, and they should be difficult to break down once again here.
With the hectic schedule having taken its toll on the majority of Championship clubs, the East Midlanders will have benefited from last weekend’s clash with Rotherham being called off. That enforced break will have allowed Rooney to work with his squad on the training ground, and the players should be feeling relatively fresh ahead of this Boxing Day meeting with Preston.
Having scored two goals in a game for the first time this season, the hosts will be feeling confident, and with both Colin Kazim-Richards and Kamil Jozwiak having got themselves onto the scoresheet, Derby’s fortunes in front of goal appears to be improving. Midfielder Krystian Bielik was also singled out for praise by a number of pundits and the former Arsenal man is slowly beginning to display the kind of form which persuaded Derby to offer him a five-year contract.
Preston continue to be frustratingly inconsistent. Alex Neil‘s side have an 8-2-10 record this season, and come off the back of a tight 1-0 victory over Bristol City. Earlier in the campaign, PNE were regarded as the away day specialists, yet they weren’t able to pick up a point at Deepdale. However, they’ve now lost three of their last four matches on the road, and have become far harder to beat in Lancashire.
Lilywhites fans are still unsure about whether Neil is the man to take them forward. His hands have been largely tied by the lack of recruitment in recent seasons, though, and they are unlikely to be dragged into a relegation battle this year.
PNE’s form is hard to nail down. Their recent performances on the road have been hugely underwhelming and they could struggle to break down a resolute Derby defence. The hosts have had extra time to prepare for this contest, and that could have a significant impact on proceedings. Derby are available 2.47/5 on the Exchange, and having stuck two past the Championship’s stingiest back-line, they shouldn’t have too many problems against a relatively makeshift back four.
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7