Preview: Watford vs. Queens Park Rangers

Preview: Watford vs. Queens Park Rangers

Watford will begin their Championship campaign by welcoming relegation favourites Queens Park Rangers to Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon.

The Hornets will be pushing for promotion this term after an extremely disappointing mid-table finish in 2022-23, while QPR are among a number of sides tipped for a survival scrap.

Watford are heading into a second-straight campaign in the Championship for the first time in over half a decade following an uninspiring 11th-placed finish last season.

Many fans and pundits predicted the Hornets to achieve an immediate promotion back to the Premier League, but a frustrating inconsistency plagued the team’s campaign, meaning they ended up six points behind sixth-placed Sunderland.

Like most summers in Hertfordshire, it has been a period of change with former Barnsley manager Valerien Ismael being appointed at the Vicarage Road helm after the departure of Chris Wilder in May.

The Frenchman did remarkably in the 2020-21 season to guide the Tykes to fifth in the Championship, but the 47-year-old’s bold footballing philosophy did not fare as well at West Bromwich Albion, meaning he left the Hawthorns after seven months.

The ex-Besiktas boss walks into a dressing room which has lost two of its star men, with Joao Pedro and Ismaila Sarr moving to Brighton & Hove Albion and Marseille respectively this summer.

A raft of experienced second-tier veterans have arrived at Vicarage Road ahead of the 2023-24 term, with Jake Livermore and Tom Ince joining from West Brom and Reading as the Hornets aim to escape the Championship.

This time last year, QPR were aiming for a promotion push under the forward-thinking stewardship of Michael Beale following the departure of Mark Warburton, but the goals at Loftus Road this term are set to be very different.

Former Wycombe Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth is now in charge at the West London club, with the 50-year-old managing to keep the R’s in the division last season despite winning just two of their final 10 league matches.

A remarkable 2-1 victory at the home of Vincent Kompany’s Burnley in April is the highlight of Ainsworth’s short spell at the club, with goals from Chris Martin and Sam Field securing a rare maximum all but ensured safety with two matches left to play.

QPR have worked exclusively in the market of free transfers so far this summer, recruiting the likes of Jack Colback, Morgan Fox and Asmir Begovic to bolster a squad which looks set to be involved in a relegation battle.

Paul Smyth has arrived from League Two winners Leyton Orient following a 10-goal campaign in the fourth tier – the 25-year-old is desperate to make a positive impression at a club he left for Charlton Athletic in October 2020.

Last season’s meeting between Watford and QPR produced a five-goal thriller, with goals from Ilias Chair, Albert Adomah and Chris Willock earning the R’s an impressive away victory in August 2022.

Watford friendly form:

Queens Park Rangers friendly form:

We say: Watford 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
Watford are set for a new era under the tutelage of Ismael, and the home faithful can expect a fast start from their side against a QPR team who were thrashed recently at Oxford United.

The R’s need a response after their 5-0 loss at the Kassam Stadium last time out, but we are predicting a defeat for Ainsworth’s men to start their second-tier campaign.

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