QPR’s first test of 2018 is against Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City side. The Bluebirds have been flying high in the Championship this season but have suffered three consecutive defeats over the Christmas period. We look at where the key battles lie for the game on New Year’s Day.
Sol Bamba v Idrissa Sylla
A colossus at the back for Cardiff City and someone who has been instrumental to a side that have conceded just 23 goals this campaign. Bamba not only has the physical qualities to perform well in this division but reads the game relatively well and importantly is a real leader who excels in organising the back line.
He’s likely to come across an Idrissa Sylla who’s hard work in recent matches has unfortunately not led to any goals. The Guinean forward has started the last three fixtures but in truth has fed off scraps and therefore not had too many opportunities to add to the four goals that he’s netted this season.
Junior Hoilett v Pawel Wszolek
The former R’s wide-man will be keen to impress on his return to Loftus Road. Hoilett was, of course, part of the Hoops side that earned promotion to the Premier League in 2014 and he has been somewhat back to his best this campaign. The Canadian’s qualities will be well known to the R’s faithful with his quick acceleration and nimble footwork often causing defenders problems. His output this year has also been impressive with six goals and six assists.
Pawel Wszolek is enjoying his best run of the season having started the last six games. The Pole has not quite hit the heights of last term when he was turning defenders inside out regularly but has, in all fairness, been adapting to a new position in the right wing back role. There has certainly been an improvement in his defensive work in recent matches and he will need to be near his best when coming across Hoilett on Monday afternoon.
Kenneth Zohore v Grant Hall
The big Dane forward has missed a large part of this season with injury but returned against Fulham on Boxing Day and unsurprisingly went straight back into the starting eleven - scoring a sumptuous volley. The 6’ 4” striker has a good all round game as he’s capable of holding the ball up for his team and bringing others in to play but is also a threat in the box with his heading ability and striking technique.
Another player who made his comeback from injury in the last week has been Grant Hall. The R’s centre half has missed most of the season with a tendonitis injury but returned at The Den on Friday night and was excellent for the large majority of the game playing alongside Alex Baptiste and Nedum Onuoha. It remains to be seen whether he can play two games in such quick succession but if the defender can keep fit then he will be a big boost to the Hoops backline for this game and the rest of the season.