Fulham and Queens Park Rangers meet at Craven Cottage on Easter Monday (8pm) in a crucial match for both sides, albeit for very different reasons.
The home side are keen to build on an impressive four-game unbeaten run, with the eight points won moving us back into the top half of the Barclays Premier League table. A strong end to the campaign is hungrily desired in SW6 and matches against relegation candidates by the banks of the Thames would seemingly be an ideal opportunity to solidify that top-10 status.
Rangers, meanwhile, continue to prop up the table, as they have done for the majority of the campaign, with Harry Redknapp’s side still seven points from safety. A win on Monday would do much to alleviate the tension, as well as securing the bragging rights which Fulham fans so wildly crave following the 2-1 at Loftus Road back in December.
No top-flight team has won less games than the Hoops during the 2012/13 campaign, with our local rivals only taking maximum points from Chelsea, Southampton, Sunderland and, sadly, Fulham.
After surviving despite defeat on the final day of last season, there was a renewed hope that the current campaign would see the club progress as a force in the Premier League. It was a hope that was never fulfilled, though, as a slow start (including a 5-0 home drubbing by Swansea City on the opening day) cost former Whites Manager Mark Hughes his job, with Redknapp promptly taking the hotseat.
It must be said their fortunes have improved since the former Tottenham Hotspur man joined the ranks and they are not as far adrift from safety as they once were. In addition to the four victories, they have secured impressive draws against Spurs and Manchester City under Redknapp’s tutelage.
Strong investment has been continually provided to aid the Rangers squad, with two high-profile signings added in January. France international Loic Remy joined from Marseille to add firepower up top, while former Blackburn Rovers defender Chris Samba was tempted back to the UK to shore up their leaky defence. The pair reportedly cost QPR more than £20m.
Last time out
Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Fulham 15.12.2012
If Fulham fans were to choose their darkest moment from the current campaign, it’s likely that the majority would opt for the trip to Loftus Road midway through December. After doing the double over our local rivals in 2011/12, we were looking forward to the short journey, hoping to build on our recent 2-1 triumph over Newcastle United at the Cottage.
What followed, though, was one of the most disappointing displays by a Fulham side in recent memory. The players, by their own admission, failed to perform to the standards expected of a fierce derby match, and QPR ended up coming away with their first win of the season, and deservedly so.
After a low-key first half – the main incident of note came when Rangers forward Jamie Mackie sliced an effort wide when through one-on-one – the home side took the lead through the impressive Adel Taarabt. The Morocco international broke forward and hit a speculative, and seemingly harmless, effort which took a huge deflection off Brede Hangeland to wrong-foot Mark Schwarzer, before nestling in the back of the net.
And it was the same man who doubled the lead 16 minutes later, when he bustled beyond Hangeland before poking a cute effort inside the far post. Fulham only really came to life during the latter stages of the match, but by then it was too little too late, although Mladen Petrić did net a fine consolation from range with two minutes remaining.
Players to watch
Bobby Zamora: The former Fulham man has seen his season plagued by injuries but he has started three of QPR’s last four outings. Craven Cottage was the venue for some of the finest moments of Zamora’s career and Whites fans will be all too aware of the threat he poses on his first return to the ground since leaving in January 2012. Powerful in the air with excellent hold-up technique, the striker is also capable of scoring with either foot.
Loic Remy: A highly-rated striker with plenty of pace, it was seen as something of a coup when Redknapp was able to convince the 18-cap France international to swap a title challenge with Marseille for a relegation scrap in London. Injury has meant Remy has only made six appearances for his new side, but he’s still managed to notch three goals, including the opener on his debut in a 1-1 draw at West Ham United.
Andros Townsend: The left-winger arrived at Loftus Road on loan on transfer deadline day in January as Redknapp raided his former club Tottenham to add further depth to his squad. Townsend has started five times since the move and has added a different dimension to Rangers’ attacking options. The England Under-21 international has also hit long-range goals in his previous two outings.
1 QPR have won just one of their last seven competitive meetings with Fulham (L5 D1), but this victory came earlier this season (2-1) at Loftus Road.
6 Fulham defeated QPR 6-0 at Craven Cottage in the last meeting here; both QPR’s record defeat and Fulham’s joint-record win in the Premier League.
2 Adel Taraabt bagged both of QPR’s goals in the 2-1 win over Fulham earlier this season; the only side that the Moroccan has scored more than once against in the Premier League.
9.2 QPR have converted just 9.2 per cent of their shots into goals this season; the lowest proportion in the Premier League.
4 The Whites have come from behind to win only four points in the Premier League this season; fewer than any other side.
3 Dimitar Berbatov has scored in three successive Premier League appearances for the first time since December 2011. He has never netted in four successive PL games.
2 Jermaine Jenas has scored in two successive appearances in the Premier League. On the last occasion that he did this (February 2007), he went on to net in three successive games.
8 Fulham have won fewer points (8) than any other side in Premier League London derbies this season, but defeated Tottenham Hotspur in our last match.
13 There have been just 13 goals scored in QPR’s eight Premier League London derbies this season; an average of 1.63 per game.
3 QPR have lost just three of their eight Premier League away games under Harry Redknapp (W2 D3).