Birmingham v QPR: Both sides can oblige at St Andrew's
Marooned in mid-table, both Birmingham and QPR know maximum points in Wednesday's meeting could push them closer towards an unexpected play-off charge. Mark O'Haire expects goals in their St Andrew's showdown...
Birmingham v QPR
Wednesday December 11, 19:45
Wednesday December 11, 19:45
Birmingham extend unbeaten streak
Birmingham extended their unbeaten Championship streak to four (W1-D3-L0) on Saturday with a 3-2 success at Reading. Jude Bellingham's drive deflected broke the deadlock before Jeremie Bela, who joined the Blues last month, netted his first goal in English football - rifling in a 25-year free-kick. The French forward then set up Alvaro Gimenez for City's third.
Reading had the better opportunities in a tightly-contested first half. However, Blues went ahead with a goal from nowhere in the 41st minute as Bellingham's effort took a wicked deflection. The lead lasted only four minutes, and despite entering the interval level, both teams played their part after the break in an end-to-end second-half thriller in Berkshire.
Birmingham boss Pep Clotet, who was confirmed as the club's boss on a permanent basis just days prior to the Madjeski Stadium trip, was delighted with his team's display. He said: "It was a huge step forward to where we want to be. The whole team believe in what we're doing, we keep playing our football, we keep going and in the end we get a fantastic result."
QPR finally keep a clean sheet
QPR scratched an itch on Saturday as Mark Warburton's men became the 91st and final side across England's top four divisions to keep a clean sheet in 2019/20. Ebere Eze's double secured Rangers' first victory in eight games - pushing the Hoops 12 points clear of the Championship drop zone - as the West Londoners overcame Preston 2-0 at Loftus Road.
Eze put Rangers ahead in the 17th minute, collecting Geoff Cameron's pass and firing home at the second attempt. The England Under-21 international sealed the points midway through the second half, tucking away a penalty after Marc Pugh had been brought down. QPR winger Bright Osayi-Samuel and Pugh also came close either side of the interval.
Rangers were largely untroubled although Joe Lumley's close range stop late on drew plenty of praise from a relieved Warburton. He said: "The save he made late in the game, low to his left, was a world-class save. He's come through a couple of mistakes and showed his quality - he was outstanding for us today. The clean sheet also takes the pressure off the defence."
Rangers value on the road?
QPR have enjoyed the upper-hand over Birmingham at St Andrew's in recent seasons. Rangers have returned home with W3-D1-L1 in their most recent five trips to the Second City, although last year's encounter concluded goalless, whilst the Blues enjoyed a 4-3 win during the reverse meeting in February earlier this year as Che Adams bagged a hat-trick.
Birmingham 2.38 are ranked inside the top-10 for home performance (W5-D2-L2) with Blues' efforts impressing at St Andrew's when welcoming clubs outside of the play-off positions (W5-D1-L0). Even so, Pep Clotet's team have struggled to engineer consistent open play opportunities with 10 (45%) of their 22-goal tally converted via headers.
QPR's 3.20 weekend win ended a seven-game without success (W0-D3-L4) and the R's take to the road looking to enhance an already-impressive W4-D1-L4 return in games as guests. Five of Rangers' eight overall league losses have come against top-five opposition with Mark Warburton's men pocketing a respectable W8-D4-L3 against sides sitting in sixth and below.
Back both sides to oblige
Five of the past eight meetings between Birmingham and QPR have seen Over 2.5 Goals 1.92 land with Both Teams To Score landing six times in that same sample. A repeat of the latter is 1.75 on Wednesday evening and that's a little too big to ignore.
Despite being involved in some of the division's lowest-scoring games in 2019/20, Birmingham have at least found the back of the net in all bar two of their nine St Andrew's showdowns under Pep Clotet. The hosts have also registered in eight of their last 10 with only high-flying Fulham and Leeds capable of silencing Blues.
QPR's defence remains questionable but Rangers are a match for most in attacking areas, notching in 15 of their opening 20 tussles. The R's have bagged at least twice in 10 of 15 fixtures when facing sides outside of the top-five and are generating a healthy amount of open play goalscoring chances compared to Championship rivals.
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