QPR v Birmingham
The high of defeating Watford last weekend was quickly forgotten about by everyone at QPR during their midweek clash with Blackpool, which saw them go down 6-1. They found themselves 3-0 behind with the opening fifteen minutes and boss Gareth Ainsworth must have been left wondering what he was seeing. Following that match, Ainsworth said he learned a lot about his squad, but he’ll be coping key players can return from injury so he can make changes to his starting eleven.
If they are indeed to go into the Birmingham game without the likes of Kenneth Paal, Ilias Chair or Ethan Laird back from injury then it could be another long day for them. That being said, they are viewed as favourites to defeat an out of form Birmingham side, and such is the Championship it would be no great shock to see them bounce back. QPR however have now conceded an average of three goals per game under Ainsworth, and changing to a new look 3-5-2 formation may take some time to adjust to.
As mentioned, Birmingham isn’t in the best of shape themselves, and five defeats in seven is testimony to that. They did at least defeat Rotherham in their previous home match, but The Blues will be more worried about what they are currently producing on their travels. Four without a win away, including three defeats, doesn’t read well, especially when lowly Huddersfield was one of those. The flip side is that Norwich and Watford were the others, but failing to win away at any of the current bottom five suggests they have issues against a certain calibre of team.
QPR will play to win this one, and Ainsworth will have them fired up, but he noted their struggles to defend set pieced against Blackpool, so perhaps Birmingham is one of the teams they’d now least want to face. That’s because John Eustace’s men are ranked third for goals scored via set pieces, only behind Millwall and Sheffield United. QPR are ranked number one for most goals conceded via these routes, so it points to problems.
Given Birmingham’s recent form, it remains to be seen who exactly Eustace will field in certain positions, or indeed if he changes formation. Backing a few of their defenders at big prices to find the back of the net is worth a few quid, and I have picked out Auston Trusty and Kevin Long to score anytime priced at 18/1 (Bet365) and 22/1 (Betfred) respectively. Arsenal loanee Trusty is actually their third-highest scorer with four, whilst Long recently netted against Rotherham and may still have that scoring feeling.
Watford v Wigan
Whilst QPR boss Gareth Ainsworth was celebrating at the weekend and feeling miserable in midweek, it was the exact opposite for recently appointed Watford manager Chris Wilder this week. His side went down to QPR in his debut in the Hornets dugout and produced a forgetful performance, but they looked more like a promotion contender outfit when despatching Birmingham 3-0 on Tuesday. Wilder will be keen for his team to back that up against a struggling but awkward Wigan Athletic.
However, for all that Watford did win 3-0, they actually finished second best on the Expected Goals (xG) count at Vicarage Road, suggesting that may the result slightly flattered them, but a 3-0 win will make them feel much better about themselves. They do still have a gap to overcome to the play-off positions and they just need to be winning games like this if they’re serious about an immediate Premier League return. They have however dropped points at home to the likes of QPR and Rotherham this season, so they have proved to find clashes like this difficult to negotiate. They’ve also not won back-to-back matches since the end of October/early November, so it is perhaps more mentally more than anything that they need to be switched on this Saturday afternoon.
It is nine matches at the helm for Shaun Maloney at Wigan and whilst he has only overseen one win, only three of those has resulted in defeat. A series of draws suggests he is implementing something here, and it is worked in terms of being tighter defensively on one hand, but they still remain quite vulnerable at the back. Based on xG, Coventry should’ve at least found another goal against them on Tuesday in the 1-1 draw, and it is five games running they’ve been second best in that category. In their defence, this run has included Burnley and West Brom.
It isn’t quite must-win territory for Wigan but they need to start getting some wins together as games are starting to run out. That was the feeling watching their clash with Coventry in midweek, as it virtually turning into a basketball contest at times given how open and end-to-end it become. A draw on paper may not be a bad outcome from Vicarage Road, but they’re likely to need to score to have a chance of achieving that. Wigan are joint-top in the both teams to score standings in the Championship, so they at least have form in that regard.
A price of 11/10 from Sky Bet on each side finding the back of the net has to be a strong consideration. Watford are still finding their feet under Wilder, and Birmingham still had their chances against them despite winning 3-0 in midweek. Wigan are a plucky outfit but do have individual quality in attack to have moments on their own.
QPR v Birmingham – Auston Trusty Anytime Goalscorer (18/1 Bet365)
QPR v Birmingham – Kevin Long Anytime Goalscorer (22/1 Sky Bet)
Watford v Wigan – Both Teams To Score (11/10 QuinnBet)