QPR vs Luton predictions: Critchley's hosts to beat fierce rivals
QPR and Luton both returned from the World Cup break with new managers at the helm and both men will be looking for their second win with their new club on Thursday night.
The R’s had been struggling to hold on to former head coach Michael Beale since Wolves showed an interest in October and, while the man himself rejected that approach, the subsequent interest from Scottish giants Rangers proved the beginning of the end of his short time at Loftus Road.
Performances were arguably affected by the speculation and results nosedived — Beale took just one point from his final five matches — so his departure was best for all parties as the R’s now seem to be getting back on track under replacement Critchley.
New Luton head coach Rob Edwards has plenty to do to convince supporters that he is the man for the job given his previous affiliation with Watford, but victory over one of the Hatters' other fierce rivals on Thursday night would go a long way to placating uncertain locals.
QPR captain Stefan Johansen and centre-back Leon Balogun are doubts after the pair missed the Boxing Day draw with Cardiff due to knocks.
However, key playmaker Ilias Chair came off the bench in south Wales following his return from World Cup duty with Morocco and should be ready to start.
Edwards has a number of key men missing for Luton, particularly in defence.
Goalkeeper James Shea is still a few weeks from returning from the knee injury that has ruled him out all season and centre-backs Sonny Bradley and Reece Burke are also expected to be out until mid-January.
Fellow centre-back Gabriel Osho is suspended, so Amari'i Bell — who will be returning from his own ban — could take his place.
Midfielder Henri Lansbury will be out for a few weeks following thigh surgery, while attacker Fred Onyedinma is unavailable due to a groin injury.
Luton’s Boxing Day victory over Norwich was only their second win in eight matches and it is perhaps telling that their opponents sacked struggling manager Dean Smith immediately after that contest.
The Bedfordshire side have lost three of their last four away games, conceding two or more goals on each occasion, and their only points in that run was a 1-0 defeat of relegation-threatened Blackpool.
QPR’s form tailed off badly after rumours emerged of Rangers’ interest in Michael Beale, but prior to that the west London side had a home record of five wins and two draws from eight Championship matches.
And since Critchley was appointed, QPR have beaten 10th-placed Preston at home and drawn away at Cardiff.
Goals have been a problem of late for the R’s but the return of Ilias Chair could be huge, as he has had more goal involvements than any other QPR player this term, scoring three times and laying on six assists.
QPR and Luton are both entering new periods under different managers but the R’s begin their new chapter in better shape than the Hatters and can be trusted to take all three points.
A lack of goals has been an issue for QPR since the uncertainty over Beale’s future emerged but the return of Ilias Chair and newfound stability in the dugout could prove a turning point.
The Londoners are not without a goal threat, scoring two or more goals in nine of their first 16 Championship outings of 2022-23. They should now be expected to address their recent slide and get back towards that level, so over 2.5 goals — — looks a tempting addition to Bet Builder selections.
The R’s are getting back on track while Luton are undermined by key defensive absentees and the quality of their recent win over Norwich needs to be placed in context, given how erratic the Canaries have been of late.