Reading and Queens Park Rangers are two Premier League wannabees trying to recapture the ‘glory’ days of their top-flight days. They meet on Thursday night with one making a much better fist of it than the other.
The home team are currently third in the Championship. QPR are down at 17, just five points off the relegation spots.
So it is no surprise to see the odds heavily skewed in favour of Reading in most of our green listed sportsbooks. They are no better than 1.85 (William Hill). QPR are 4.5 with Bet365, Betfred, BetVictor, Stan James, Coral and William Hill. The draw is 3.75 (Betfred, Betway).
The temptation is to build a case to get Reading beat when you see such skinny odds. It is the automatic reaction of the value seeker, the punter who refuses to get carried along with the tide.
This may largely be because of Reading’s performance in their FA Cup third-round defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford. They were awful. Their defenders stood off superior players, giving them time and space, their attackers were toothless and their goalkeeper was a clown.
But we need to guard against forming too strong an opinion on the basis of a one-off game in special circumstances. Initial research suggests QPR could get the sort of hiding that Reading suffered in the north-west.
QPR have lost seven of their last nine in all competitions. This includes a 1-0 defeat by Rotherham. And it is a wonder as to what was more extraordinary about that result. The fact Rangers couldn’t muster a win against the bottom feeders or that they couldn’t even manage a goal against a defence which has more holes than a colander.
Against the top six sides this season, QPR have a record of played six, won one, lost four and drawn one. The one victory came on day one of the campaign against Leeds, who are now vastly improved under a different regime.
In those matches they have conceded 13 goals, scoring five. But their stalemate did come against Reading, a 1-1 draw in October.
And in mitigation, they have won their past two league games – the first time they have put back-to-back successes together. Does that hint at a revival under new manager Ian Holloway?
Holloway is the key man here. A contact of a contact once worked with Holloway and said his approach to tactics and coaching was scattergun to say the least. He was all about inspiring individuals and groups. A man manager.
That could be the reason for QPR’s inconsistency – they also lost to Blackburn in the Cup – so bear in mind if you are backing QPR you are not doing so expecting some sort of tactical master class.
What is fascinating – and provides our edge - is that Reading and QPR occupy lowly positions on the goals expectancy table – 20th and 23rd respectively. The ladder is based on the combined number of chances they create and allow.