Fulham v QPR – the key battles

Fulham host QPR on Saturday at Craven Cottage in what should be a mouth-watering local derby between the two highest scorers in the Championship. We look at some of the key battles likely to play out on the pitch. 

Aleksandar Mitrovic v Rob Dickie

After a miserable return to the Premier League where he scored just three times in 27 appearances, Mitrovic is once again filling his boots in the Championship.

Fulham’s Serbian striker already has 10 goals to his name this season, having scored 27 at that level two years ago.

Although he lacks pace, and pressing from the front is simply not his game, he comes alive in the box when provided with decent service, as he showed with his first-half hat-trick in the Whites’ recent 3-1 win over Swansea.

Dickie fared well against Mitrovic when the pair faced off in the FA Cup third-round clash last season, which Fulham won 2-0 in extra time. He was largely subdued by Dickie, who has developed into one of the best centre-backs in the Championship. But he will need to be at the top of his game keep a confident Mitrovic in check.

Fabio Carvalho v Moses Odubajo

It can’t be a coincidence that Fulham’s have struggled to match their impressive early-season performances ever since Carvalho picked up an injury that has sidelined him for the past six games.

The Whites have lost three times without the richly-talented 19-year-old playmaker, who wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Premier League last season had former manager Scott Parker given him more opportunities.

The Portugal-born teenager, who is stalling over a new contract offer, is expected to return on Saturday and likely to operate on the left of a 4-2-3-1 formation. Teams have enjoyed success down the Rangers’ right this season and with the excellent Antonee Robinson operating behind Carvalho from left-back, Moses Odubajo will be tested.

Stefan Johansen v John Michael Seri

Johansen left Fulham on good terms following his permanent move to W12 in August and returns to Craven Cottage for the first time as an opposing player.

The Norwegian is fondly remembered by Whites fans, having been an integral part of two promotion-winning campaigns.

However, the Rangers skipper will be desperate to prove a point to a club that discarded him twice after he helped them reach the Premier League.

Johansen is QPR’s key player in the middle of the park and will know all about the strengths and weaknesses of Seri, who’s finally enjoying a run in the side having struggled to make an impression since his arrival in 2018 and spent the past two seasons out on loan.

Rangers will have taken note from how Coventry dominated the midfield battle in second half of their recent 4-1 win over Marco Silva’s side.

Chris Willock v Denis Odoi

Willock will be relieved to see the return of Sam McCallum from injury after being forced to fill in as a makeshift left wing-back for QPR’s past two matches.

The former Arsenal man and Ilias Chair were outstanding in the Carabao Cup win over Everton, causing the Premier League team all sorts of problems down their right side.

Willock has been highly impressive this season and will be confident of having similar success against Odoi, who has been deputising at right-back for the injured Kenny Tete.

The veteran Belgian will have unhappy memories of facing Rangers at Craven Cottage after being robbed of the ball by Pawel Wszolek as the Pole grabbed an equaliser in a 2-2 draw in 2018.