26 mins: Bamford gets his first proper sight of goal, collecting the ball from Ayling and drilling an effort from an acute angle, beaten away by Kelly.
24 mins: The first sign of needle, as Hernandez and Amos contest a loose ball and get involved in some heated but just-about-above-board midfield scrapping, the Leeds player eventually tackling his opponent with needless force.
Goal! QPR 1-0 Leeds (Wells, 20)
QPR lead! Eze’s driven free-kick doesn’t get past the wall but Wells gathers the loose ball and taps in from close range. But he controlled it with his hand! Unwittingly, but unequivocally. Leeds are furious. The goals stands. One-nil.
19 mins: From the resulting corner, Osayi-Samuel picks up the half-cleared ball on the halfway line and storms majestically forward, right at the heart of Leeds’ flailing defence, eventually winning a foul right on the edge of the box. He’s been superb so far.
18 mins: Costa draws a foul on the right. Hernandez whips in a glorious cross, but again no Leeds players can meet it. White’s looping clearance forces a save from his own keeper.
16 mins: Ayling scoots up the right flank and is found by Costa. He drills the ball low and hard across goal but no attacker can get a touch and the ball is cleared.
14 mins: Osayi-Samuel drives in from the right against and feeds Well’s, whose first-time layoff is curled goalwards by Amos. Casilla tips wide.
12 mins: Eze carries the ball down the left and zips it into the feet of Wells, who lays off to Osayi-Samuel. He skips into the box but mis-hits his shot. Positive stuff from QPR so far.
10 mins: Dallas steams forward, plays a lovely one-two with Harrison and tries to pick out Bamford in the box, but his pass is loose.
8 mins: QPR hem leeds into their own half, with Chair, Eze and Osayi-Samuel taking turns to run at a Leeds defence that eventually clears. On the counter, Bamford unleashes an audacious chip from almost the halfway line. It sails over Kelly but drifts a few feet wide.
5 mins: QRP are clearly under instruction to send the ball early towards Osayi-Samuel and isolate him against Dallas, Leeds’ stand-in left-back. down the other end, Leeds mount an attack that ends with a volley scuffed into the floor by Harrison.
3 mins: And now Eze, on the other wing, ghosts past Ayling with a drop of the shoulder but can’t quite find a hooped shirt from the byline. Three minutes in and QPR’s danger men look up for it.
2 mins: Osayi-Samuel stretches his legs on the right wing, chasing a lovely long pass from Hall and drawing a hideously rash tackle from Cooper, who misses the ball completely. White sweeps up.
The teams are out, and it’s a glorious afternoon in west London. Handshakes are exchanged and formations adopted – and we’re off. Leeds get going with a bit of keep-ball, before Costa’s driving run is curtailed as he reaches the QPR box.
The hardest-worked defenders today, though, might just be Leeds’ two full-backs, who’ll be up against the combined trickery of Bright Osayi-Samuel and Eberechi Eze, two outrageously talented dribblers with no shortage of final product and who can switch flanks at will. You’d imagine a busy afternoon awaits for Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas.
Speaking of that defence, 21-year-old former Liverpool youth-teamer Conor Masterson is making his league debut for QPR today at the heart of it. He can’t do any worse than what’s come before him, right…?
Die-hard QPR fan Aditya emails from Mumbai to get us in the mood: “Love to see the way we’re playing this season. We’ve got the best front three in the league (okay, second best to Brentford) and a shocking defence – every game is a rollercoaster. Looking forward to seeing how we square up against a stuttering Leeds.”
Just the one change for Leeds, then, and a forced one at that – Pablo Hernández coming in for the injured Barry Douglas. Bielsa is clearly of the mind that no tinkering is needed despite the ominous downturn in results.
As for QPR, they make three changes with the most notable being the omission of Jordan Hugill who misses out with what the club describe as a “knock”. But the real story here might just be on the hosts’ bench, where there’s a spot for the teenage attacker Jack Clarke who joined this week on loan from Tottenham. Clarke joined Spurs in the summer from – you guessed it – Leeds, and was promptly loaned back to them this season, only to be recalled by Spurs in December because he wasn’t being given a game. Got that? If not, here’s the short version: Clarke has a point to prove.
QPR: Kelly, Kane, Hall, Cameron, Masterson, Wallace, Amos, Osayi-Samuel, Chair, Eze, Wells. Subs: Barnes, Pugh, Scowen, Ball, Manning, Leistner, Clarke.
Leeds United: Casilla, Ayling, White, Cooper, Dallas, Phillips, Klich, Harrison, Costa, Hernandez, Bamford. Subs: Meslier, Casey, Alioski, Struijk, McCalmont, Shackleton, Stevens.
Funny league, the Championship. Despite being runaway favourites for the automatic promotion spots and sitting snugly in first and second, neither Leeds nor West Brom have won a league game this decade! In fact, the only victory they’ve managed between them in the last month was Leeds’ 5-4 win at Birmingham – a glorious occasion, but hardly the stuff of hard-nosed champions.
And yet here we are, with Marcelo Bielsa’s boys heading down to the capital with top spot in their sights. A win would take them there – at least until their rivals play on Monday night – although leaving Loftus Road with three points might be rather more easily said than done for a side who, just as they started to look dead-certs for promotion, have hit that fabled winter wobble – the one their manager seems to carry with him wherever he goes.
Standing in their way this afternoon are Mark Warburton’s magnificently freewheeling QPR side, who are by no means out of the promotion chase themselves – and encouragingly for us, have scored more goals than any team bar the one at the very top, and conceded more goals than team bar the one at the very bottom. They also have the twinkle-toed Eberechi Eze, who if he isn’t the division’s best player is almost certainly the best to watch. And you thought Leeds were the Championship’s most exciting side. This should be good – strap in!