Stoke City and Queens Park Rangers supporters are eagerly anticipating the meeting between the two teams in the Championship this weekend, with both going into the clash off the back of differing recent results.
Gary Rowett’s Potters are sat 14th in the second tier table having won just five of their opening 17 matches of the campaign, just one of which has come in their last five matches, albeit their 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest last time out means they have tasted defeat on just one occasion in the Championship since September.
Yet things are somewhat brighter for Steve McClaren and his QPR side, with their 3-2 success over Brentford last time out moving them up to tenth place in the table and just two points off the top six – a far cry away from the Hoops side that lost each of their first four games of the season.
And both teams will be hoping for even greater improvement as the season wears on given the signings their respective sides made during the summer, with Benik Afobe one man who made the move to Staffordshire, while Tomer Hemed made a late loan move to Loftus Road in a bid to bolster McClaren’s forward ranks.
And with the duo perhaps two of the more high-profile signings the clubs made during the close season, let’s take a look at how the two compare…
25-year-old Afobe made the loan move to the bet365 Stadium at the start of the campaign as new boss Rowett, fresh from leading Derby County to the play-offs last term, sought to build a squad capable of going one better and winning promotion this time round.
And Wolves striker Afobe, whose loan move will become permanent in January, has proven goal-scoring pedigree in the second tier having netted for the West Midlands club in the past, and he took that into the early stages of this term with four goals in his first seven games for the Potters.
However, the DR Congo international has since then seriously struggled in failing to net at all in his last ten games for Rowett’s side, and him misfiring does appear to be hindering Stoke given in those ten matches, they have scored just ten goals.
And with back-to-back 0-0 draws prior to the international break, it’s plainly obvious that Rowett needs the 25-year-old to re-discover his best goal-scoring form, with it clear that Afobe will play a vital part in what success the Potters have in the second tier this season.
TT Verdict: B
QPR’s shocking start to the new season immediately piled the pressure on new boss McClaren, who called for patience at the time and placed great emphasis on the additions he was set to make.
And no wonder, as Brighton’s Hemed, scorer of 30 goals in 73 Championship games for the Seagulls in recent years, was one stunning capture he made in a bid to help his flailing striking ranks, who between them netted just twice in their opening four league games.
McClaren was seen to have pulled off quite the coup signing the Israel international, and so it has proven given the 31-year-old netted on debut in a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic, from which he has since added a further two goals in ten appearances for the Hoops to help move them up the division.
Yes, he’s hardly been prolific, but it’s also what Hemed gives to this QPR team when leading the line which underlines just what a great signing he is proving to be, with the 31-year-old likely to play a key role in what success McClaren’s team go on to have this season.
TT Verdict: A-
Clearly, both Rowett and McClaren looked at the duo as the men that could help fire their respective teams towards the upper echelons of the Championship this term, what with messrs Afobe and Hemed having proven their worth in the second tier in years gone by.
And while both made instant impacts at their new clubs, the former’s form has tailed off quite spectacularly in recent times, while the latter’s importance to QPR was perhaps felt most when he was out of the side in their most recent two league games.
And with the Stoke man clearly struggling for form in a side that rely heavily on his goals, it’s clear that McClaren’s stunning coup for Hemed has outshone Rowett’s summer signing.
Stoke and QPR fans… what do you think? Let us know!
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