Wigan v QPR – Championship Semi-Final Playoff
Friday’s first leg of the Championship Playoff semi-final offers both QPR and Wigan the opportunity to make a return to the top flight at the first attempt. Ciaran Bonass previews.
Wigan have stumbled towards the playoffs and were afforded the luxury of reaching the end of season showdown for a final Premier League spot with a game to spare, so last weekend’s 4-3 loss to Blackburn was of little importance. With only three wins in their last ten however, it seems a distant memory that the Latics were on a a series of nine wins and a draw from February until late March that briefly seemed to give them a chance of a top two finish. Manchester City cult favourite Uwe Rosler has done a fine job since replacing Owen Coyle as the German oversaw another famous win for Wigan over the Premier League champions elect to reach a second FA Cup semi-final in a row before they were knocked out on penalties against Arsenal last month.
A lack of a prolific scorer has proved Wigan’s undoing for much of the season as is proven by Nick Powell and Jordi Gomez topping their league goalscoring charts with seven.
An upturn in results toward the end of their league campaign culminated in a 3-2 win for QPR over relegated Barnsley in their final league game of the season last weekend which saw them finish fourth, seven points clear of Friday’s opponents. The R’s were rarely troubled in race for playoff places but lacked consistency in the latter part of the season and were well off the pace set by Leicester and Burnley. Harry Redknapp’s side have strruggled on the road in particular for most of the season, losing seven of their last ten away from home.
Charlie Austin was easily QPR’s top scorer in the Championship bagging 17 despite missing over a third of the season through injury, but Ravel Morrison has impressed since joining from West Ham on loan, with six goals in 14 starts.
Gomez is expected to return to the Wigan starting XI after being rested for their loss against Blackburn but Ben Watson remains sidelined with a broken leg.
A host of first team regulars were rested by Redknapp last weekend but the likes of Richard Dunne, Clint Hill and Joey Barton should all return from the start.
Only one goal has been scored in the two Championship games between them this season, with Yossi Benayoun netting in the home win for QPR in March before being sent off following a soreless draw at the DW. Both Premier League meetings last season ended in draws and in a total of 12 competitive meetings between the clubs over the years, the R’s have four wins to Wigan’s two.
With so much to lose and so little between them in recent encounters, it’s little surpise that a tight game is expected with Under 2.5 goals arguably the pick of the odds-on bets without inspiring a great deal of confidence at 8/13. The home side can narrowly edge this one against a team with chronic travel sickness before QPR have a chance to turn it around next Monday so take Wigan to shade it at 5/4.
A refreshed Gomez could prove the pick of the pack in the goalscorers market at 9/4 although with goals in each of his last three games Austin is also well-priced at 11/8.