There is good news and bad news for Leicester City fans. The good news is that a week from now Leicester’s run-in will contain fixtures against nine sides currently below them in the Championship table, and just one match against a team currently above them. The bad news is that if this weekend’s meeting with QPR and the following home fixture against Norwich go badly wrong City will have a major catch up operation on their hands. Sven’s men could find themselves with just 30 points available to close a gap which might be as wide as eight. We’re not in the territory of must-win games yet, but Leicester’s playoff place is far from guaranteed. In failing to beat Coventry, the Foxes have invited unnecessary pressure.
City’s inability to deal with Marlon King last week does not bode well for this encounter. Adel Taarabt, the former Spurs man and now QPR captain, has accounted for 15 of QPR’s 56 Championship goals this season and has made an astonishing 127 attempts, 37 more than any other Championship player. Meanwhile Taarabt’s 13 assists make him the leading Championship player in this category. Leicester’s most creative player by this measure, Ritchie Wellens, has 7 assists to his name.
Keeping Taarabt and the rest of the QPR frontline quiet will be quite a challenge in itself, but whilst much has been made of Neil Warnock’s decision to build his side around the mercurial number 7, the real strength of QPR this season has been their resolute defending. The R’s have lost just three league games, conceded the Championship’s fewest goals (20) and kept the most clean sheets (19 – the same number Leicester managed in their entire League One campaign). Keeping QPR out at one end really is only half the job.
There are, however, some statistical crumbs of comfort for Leicester fans. The Foxes current away from (10 points from 18) is the fourth best in the Championship. Sven’s men have kept three clean sheets away from home in 2011 and have conceded only five goals in their last six away trips in the league. Finally, Leicester’s last four trips to Loftus Road have yielded a not insignificant seven points, including all three on their last impressive visit in 2009.
But given the stakes, a negative approach to the game from one or both managers would not be surprising. QPR have a Championship high six goalless draws to their name, all of them coming against sides in the top half. It’s this stat in particular which suggests this match, if it is settled at all, is likely to be won by the odd goal. There is decent value in the underside of the over/under 1.5 goals market. Perhaps we’ll see the first goalless draw of the Sven era. It wouldn’t be a bad result for anyone.