West Ham’s forwards must take advantage of Rangers’ generosity

Premier League preview: QPR v West Ham United. Monday, October 1

Few teams are as generous at gifting chances to the opposition as Queens Park Rangers.

Mark Hughes’ side have the worst goal difference in the Premier League – minus eight – and are yet to win this season.

But can West Ham’s goal-shy side profit?

England forward Andy Carroll is unlikely to have recovered from a hamstring injury in time to feature, with boss Sam Allardyce keen not to rush his prize asset back into the fray and risk aggravating the injury further.

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That means Carlton Cole, yet to net in five Premier League appearances this season, should keep his place in the lone striker role.

It’s plain to see that playing as a target man at the focal point of the attack does not suit Cole.

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But with few other options at Allardyce’s disposal it looks as though he will persist with the former Chelsea striker.

Cole, though, is unlikely to find much joy with high balls against Rangers’ likely central defensive pairing of Clint Hill and Ryan Nelson – both so dominant in the air.

QPR’s weakness looks to lie in front of them though, with Hughes’ opting to offer little protection to his back four from the centre of midfield.

So expect Kevin Nolan to enjoy plenty of freedom and chances to add to his three league goals already this season.

Who Allardyce chooses to flank Cole will also be crucial into how best they exploit the weaknesses the struggling west London side have shown already this season – they lie 19th in the Premier League and could be bottom by kick-off on Monday night.

Matt Taylor and Ricardo Vaz Te have started the last two Premier League matches in the advanced wide positions, but Matt Jarvis and Yossi Benayoun must be close to forcing their way into the starting line-up. Gary O’Neil and Jack Collison are ruled out through injury.

QPR’s biggest threat is likely to come from Junior Hoilett, who will start on the left wing, but look to support former West Ham striker Bobby Zamora as often as possible.

Winston Reid, who has started the season so brightly, is likely to be tasked with keeping Zamora quiet, while Mark Noble must offer support to right-back Guy Demel against the unpredictable and unorthadox threat from Hoilett.

The Hammers have not won at Loftus Road since recording a 1-0 win in January 1988. They have endured eight fruitless trips since with the last Premier League meeting – in April 1996 – ending in a 3-0 win for Rangers.

Prediction: QPR 1 West Ham 1

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