QPR v Aston Villa | Friday 26th October 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Friday night sees the climax of a rather hectic week for both Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa, who will be playing their third match in the space of six days.
It is back-to-back victories in that period for Steve McClaren’s men, making it four without defeat in the Championship. For Villa, it is one win and one defeat for Dean Smith since taking the helm at his boyhood club.
If the league was based solely on the previous 10 matches, QPR would sit second in the table, with Aston Villa down in 18th. Despite this, the market is struggling to separate these two sides.
The Hoops began the campaign losing four straight games, the more recent two being a 7-1 loss to West Bromwich Albion and 3-0 at home to Bristol City. It would be fair to say that this was very much the turning point in their season.
Since then, the only teams to defeat them the R's in the Championship are Norwich and Swansea, with McClaren especially making them much harder to beat. Their average of 1.31 goals conceded per-game is a figure that is frequently on the decline week-by-week.
Of Rangers' eight victories in all competitions this season, six have come alongside a clean sheet. This suggests how McClaren is wanting him team to play; clinical in attack and effective defensively.
A talented Aston Villa line-up with pose QPR a threat of Friday evening.
Smith was known for his offensive style of play when in charge of Brentford, which saw them become one of the entertainers in the Championship. Clearly this is the brand of football he wishes to implement with his new side, but he won’t have had too many tactical training sessions since coming through the door, with it mostly being recovery due to the schedule.
The Claret & Blue started brightly to defeat Swansea last Saturday, before fading late on, but still holding on. They looked in control against Norwich in midweek, before two Jordan Rhodes strikes took the game away from them.
One thing that we can often rely on Aston Villa for is goals. Even despite the managerial change, we don’t envisage this changing any time soon.
Villa witness plenty of goals
We’ve already touched on the fact that the Villains don’t normally associate themselves with 0-0 bores. They seem to have felt the absence of John Terry from their back line and previous boss Steve Bruce ultimately failed to replace him.
Villa started the campaign with Mile Jedinak at centre back, which is certainly not his strongest position. Axel Tuanzebe has now found himself in this role, but he is still young and learning the game. Smith will surely target a new central defender once the January window opens.
So much so, this has led to them conceding an average of 1.57 goals per-game on average. That figure needs to drop if they’re to challenge for promotion as the months go by. It is as high as 1.71 when focusing purely on away games.
Poor away form is one of the reasons Aston Villa find themselves in 16th after 14 games. Smith has only overseen two of those, but the same old problems seemed to crop up on the trip to Carrow Road on Tuesday.
It is just one away victory for the club this season, which came on the opening day to Hull. In that timeframe, they’ve been involved in high-scoring matches. Overall, there has been an average of 3.1 goals in their league games, and it remains at 3.00 when just focusing when featuring away from Villa Park.
Villa's only clean sheet they’ve enjoyed on the road was an earlier season League Cup win over Yeovil Town, when Bruce named a weakened side.
Although QPR have mostly kept clean sheets for the matches they’ve won this season, they are anything but bullet proof defensively. After all, they are still only in mid-table.
Villa will provide them with plenty to think about, mainly Jack Grealish, who is certainly Premier League quality and ever so difficult to keep quiet. QPR are still conceding an average of 1.36 goals per-game, and whilst that figure is on the decline after some recent shutouts, they still had Joe Lumley to thank on a few occasions in the midweek win versus Sheffield Wednesday.
Focusing just on the 1.5 goal line, 71% of QPR’s matches have seen over, whilst the same can be said in every Aston Villa away contest.
Both Teams To Score has copped in every Villa away game, and 86% of their matches in the Championship full stop this season. It is reduced down to 29% focusing purely on QPR, but those figures based on the away team are so, so tough to ignore.
5/6 (SportsPesa) on Both Teams To Score has to be worthy of interest.
Visitors to apply pressure
Scoring goals is not a problem for Aston Villa. If the league table was purely based on goals scored, they would sit in sixth. Only Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Millwall and Preston have conceded more, so that is where the issue lies. Therefore, there is profit in finding a way to get them onside taking this into account.
Also, for all that QPR are in good form at this moment in time, on paper they do not have a blistering record at Loftus Road. They have managed to claim more points than only Bolton, Reading, Hull and Ipswich. In their defence, they have had a tough run of fixtures in front of their own supporters. Aston Villa is another one of those.
QPR will still adopt something of an underdog mentality. A strong defence is the key to them winning this game, which means they will come under some pressure.
Villa are an attack-minded side, and that has to be the case to get the best out of the likes of not only Grealish, but also Tammy Abraham, Albert Adomah, John McGinn and co. Not to mention the likes of Jonathan Kodjia, Scott Hogan and Yannick Bolasie, who may well be among the substitutes.
One very interesting statistics is focusing on the corner count in the Championship. Brentford are the side that has had the most corners in their games with an average of 12.67. Not too far behind are Aston Villa at 11.20, one of only four clubs who have surpassed the 11.00 amount. This is solely 5.60 for and 5.60 against on average.
For QPR it is only 7.75, by far one of the lowest figures in the league. It highlights yet another big difference between these two sides on several statistics.
Smith is slowly implementing the intense attacking style on this crop of players and they will give this QPR defence something to think about. QPR focus on being largely clinical in front of goal, but don’t actually necessarily create that many clear-cut openings over the course of 90 minutes.
We mentioned how QPR may take on underdog tactics to a degree in this game, something they did in the recent home game to Derby, which they drew 1-1. Frank Lampard’s side had 10 corners to QPR’s one in that clash. Even despite beating Sheff Wed 3-0 on Tuesday, they lost the corner count 9-4.
Villa should see lots of the ball here and will look to test quite a stubborn QPR defence when possible. Therefore, we’ll back Aston Villa to have the Most Corners, which we can get odds-against at 23/20 (William Hill).
The Jack Grealish treatment
There have been several statistics, not just this season, but even from Aston Villa’s time in the Premier League of how often Jack Grealish was fouled, or won fouls.
He is the definition of a tricky player that knows how to draw in a defender and win a dangerous set piece for his side. He will love to play under Dean Smith, and we’ve already seen in the two games under his leadership that Grealish will be given free license to roam in search of the ball.
QPR are averaging less than 50% possession per game this season, which further highlights their intention to be very hard to beat. They will look toward counter attacks to test Aston Villa, but Villa will look to get Grealish on the ball as much as possible.
There are going to be times when this QPR defence concedes chances, it is simply inevitable given the quality of opponent that they will face. We know already that Aston Villa are among the highest scorers in the Championship so far.
QPR however are one of the cleaner teams in the division on the card count. They’ve only received 17 bookings so far, which may actually seem like a lot, but only Swansea have earned fewer. Still, this will be the first time Villa will face them this season.
Eleven of the 17 yellows they’ve earned so far have been combined by five players. Josh Scowen leads the way of three, but he has been unable to win back his spot in the team since the arrival of Geoff Cameron. There is Joel Lynch, Toni Leistner, Angel Rangel and Massimo Luongo all earning two. We believe one of these will earn another booking on Friday.
Certainly this isn’t something we’d advise any big stake towards, especially as QPR by and large have a good disciplinary record. But we'll have a small interest in taken on Angel Rangel in the To Be Shown A Card market at 3/1 (Bet365).
Grealish has a tendency to drift across to the left side, and Smith will ask him to do a job out here at some point in the match. Rangel is a very steady performer, but at 35 and playing his third game in a week, this might be an area Villa look to target.
QPR v Aston Villa – Both Teams To Score (5/6 SportsPesa)
QPR v Aston Villa – Aston Villa to win the Most Corners (23/20 William Hill)
QPR v Aston Villa – Angel Rangel to be shown a card (3/1 Bet365)