Friday 14 December 2012 10:00

Saturday afternoon sees Fulham fans make the short journey to W12 for one of their most eagerly anticipated matches of the season, against Queens Park Rangers (3pm).

It will be only the seventh time the local rivals have met in almost 30 years owing to the infrequency with which both sides have resided in the same division.

Of those previous six meetings, Fulham have prospered – winning five and drawing once, conceding just a solitary goal in the process.

Martin Jol is not expecting Mahamadou Diarra to feature at the weekend despite the Malian making the bench against Newcastle United on Monday, while Bryan Ruiz is still several weeks away from a return.

Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar has sat out QPR’s last two matches but could be available at the weekend, although Harry Redknapp may opt to continue with Rob Green between the sticks. Former Fulham strikers Andrew Johnson and Bobby Zamora are both out with long-term injuries.

The opposition

With a plethora of high-profile signings joining in the summer, Rangers fans could be forgiven for expecting more from the 2012/13 campaign after narrowly avoiding relegation on the final day of last season.

It’s no secret that QPR broke the unenviable record of suffering the longest winless start to a Barclays Premier League season, but there have been improved performances of late.

The Hoops are unbeaten since new boss Redknapp took charge at Loftus Road, with the 65-year-old overseeing a hat-trick of draws against Sunderland, Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic.

In their most recent outing, QPR actually went 2-1 up at the DW Stadium when substitute Djibril Cisse fired home after Ryan Nelson had cancelled out James McCarthy’s opener for the Latics. But the away side’s dreams of a first win of the season were extinguished just minutes later when McCarthy scored again to earn Wigan a deserved point.

Last time out

Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Fulham 25.02.2012

In the first ever Premier League meeting between the two sides at Loftus Road, Fulham secured a narrow win to complete a memorable double over our local rivals.

The Whites, dressed in their away black strip, had the ball in the back of the net with less than three minutes on the clock, only to be denied by the assistant referee’s flag. Future Rangers forward Johnson perfectly flicked a header over Paddy Kenny after meeting John Arne Riise’s inviting cross, but he had strayed a toe offside when making his forward run.

The away fans behind the goal didn’t have to wait long to see the net ripple once more, though, as we took the lead on seven minutes with a delightful goal. Mousa Dembélé bamboozled the Rangers defence, before playing an audacious back-heeled throughball into the path of Pavel Pogrebnyak, who coolly rounded Kenny before passing into the empty goal.

The travelling Faithful celebrated euphorically and did not stop singing throughout the contest, particularly when Samba Diakite was dismissed for a second yellow card with little over half an hour played.

Dickson Etuhu could have polished off the win in the second half but fired wide after running almost the length of the pitch with the ball as Jol’s men settled for a 1-0 win at our former temporary residence.

Players to watch

Adel Taarabt: Once touted as the next Zinedine Zidane, the Morocco international can be a game-changer on his day. With undoubted talent, the playmaker is capable of spectacular goals and unstoppable runs but has yet to produce such form on a consistent basis.

Esteban Granero: A few eyebrows were raised when the Spanish midfielder swapped the Bernabeu for Loftus Road in the summer. A classy operator, Granero has a fantastic range of passing and also has a decent eye for goal; traits which Rangers fans have already seen during his short time at the club.

Djibril Cisse: Another man who can punish teams when he’s in the mood, Cisse has had an eventful year in W12 after signing for Rangers in January; in every match he played for the club last season, he either scored or got sent off. He has three goals to his name in the current campaign.

Bet Butler match odds

Despite not winning a Premier League game this season, QPR are favourites going into Saturday’s encounter with Bet Butler pricing our hosts at 2.50.

An away win is available at 3.10 and may seem an attractive price considering our record against the Hoops.

If you fancy playing the odds even more, you can get an appealing 7.60 for the scores to be level at half-time, with Fulham going on to win the match.

As per usual, Dimitar Berbatov is favourite to opening the scoring (7.50), although our joint second top scorer Steve Sidwell is nicely priced at 23.0.