When Mark Hughes cleared his desk at Fulham just after the end of last season citing the club’s ‘lack of ambition’ as the reason, speculation on his next destination was rife.
Few would have predicted what happened next. Having pitched up at Queens Park Rangers in January following the sacking of Neil Warnock, Hughes has baffled many with his stance on the Cottagers and annoyed the Fulham faithful, not least owner Mohammed Al Fayed, who has on more than one occasion weighed in to criticise his former boss.
The enigmatic Harrods boss (that probably qualifies as a euphemism) has, among other things, stated that current Fulham manager Martin Jol was always his preferred choice to take over at Craven Cottage and the fall-out has added a certain spice to an already vital match.
No doubt about it, Hughes’ new charges need the points from this one. The bottom of the Premier League is as tight as James Corden’s belt with just two points separating five sides and with just 13 games left, we are approaching what a purple-nosed Scot once called squeaky-bum time.
Fulham are hardly safe themselves but with 30 points to their credit they are nine above the dreaded drop zone and should comfortably pick up the required points to ensure another season of Premier League football.
The Cottagers certainly possess more quality than those teams that have been marooned at the bottom for the majority of the season but Jol’s men only seem to be able to truly produce their best when playing at home. As such, QPR will be viewing this as the sort of game where three points are more than achievable.
In bwin’s 3way football betting market, QPR are 3/2 to get that win, with the draw quoted at 11/5 and Fulham priced up at 9/5 to secure an all too rare away victory.
Tipping Fulham to pick up a win on the road flies in the face of logic. A pitiful eight of the Cottagers’ 30 points have been gained away from Craven Cottage, which you won’t be surprised to learn is the worst record in the division.
The Cottagers certainly possess more quality than those teams that have been marooned at the bottom for the majority of the season but Jol’s men only seem to be able to truly produce their best when playing at home.
Fulham have won just one of their 12 away league fixtures (at hapless Wigan Athletic) and have scored a measly seven goals in those games.
This follows a historical trend that goes back to Chris Coleman’s managerial days – Fulham just cannot win on the road – and even if QPR are hardly stellar opposition, I’d want more than 9/5 that a team with such poor form secures an away victory.
So can you make a case for QPR? I think at 3/2 I can, albeit a qualified one. Rangers’ home form would not have you rushing to back them – two wins in 12 league games at Loftus Road is not the sort of record that will have you steaming in to them at the price on offer.
Still, there have been only six defeats, four of which came against sides in the top half, and you must remember that most of those fixtures were played under the stewardship of Neil Warnock, a man for whom tactics were as alien a concept as likeability.
Since Hughes took over he has won two of his four home games, the victories picked up against MK Dons in the FA Cup and hapless Wigan Athletic (there’s a theme developing) in the league.
The two defeats have had mitigating circumstances. A 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup came after a dismal penalty decision brought the Blues a winner, while QPR were 1-0 up and in total control against Wolves until Djbril Cisse once again showed he wasn’t blessed with football intelligence by stupidly getting sent off after 20 minutes.
Cisse is still suspended but the man who also faces his former club, Bobby Zamora, will want to prove a point to Jol and I think there is enough about QPR to take advantage of Fulham’s dismal away form.
I wouldn’t mortgage the house for it but the 3/2 is fine enough for me.
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