Preview: Queens Park Rangers vs. Stoke City

Stoke manager Mark Hughes watches his team against Tottenham during the Premier League match on April 26, 2014
© Getty Images
Sports Mole previews the Premier League clash between Stoke City and QPR at Loftus Road as Potters manager Mark Hughes returns to one of his former clubs.

Mark Hughes visits the ghost of his managerial past on Saturday lunchtime when he takes his Stoke City side to former club Queens Park Rangers.

The Welshman spent 10 months in charge at Loftus Road in 2012, but won only eight and lost 20 of the 34 matches that he oversaw before his sacking.

His spell with the Hoops arguably represents the only blotch on the 50-year-old's managerial copybook, and he helped rebuild his reputation by leading Stoke to their best ever Premier League finish in 2013-14.

Aside from a shock 1-0 victory at champions Manchester City, another of Hughes's former clubs, the Potters have failed to find their feet this season and currently sit 14th with four points from as many games.

Their slender loss to Leicester City last weekend made it consecutive defeats at their Britannia Stadium fortress and was the third time this season that they have dropped points to sides that Hughes will be aiming to finish above.

Despite what appeared to be a fairly promising summer transfer window, their early-season form suggests that 16th-placed Rangers will be one of those teams involved in a relegation scrap this term.

Harry Redknapp admitted last week that games such as their thrashing at star-studded Manchester United will not define their season, but two 4-0 hammerings on the road already gives cause for concern.

The QPR boss, who failed to keep them in the top flight upon taking over from Hughes in 2012, before guiding them to promotion from the Championship, will therefore hope that their home form will take the R's to safety.

Having only seen his side score once in five games, Redknapp may hand Chilean World Cup star Eduardo Vargas, who joined on loan from Napoli, a start alongside Charlie Austin and Junior Hoilett in attack.

Conceding goals has been just as big a problem, but the attractive partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker will be given time. There may still be a defensive change, with Armand Traore recalled for Clint Hill at left-back.

The hosts have injury concerns in midfield, where Alejandro Faurlin is a long-term absentee and Jordan Mutch a major doubt. Joey Barton should return, though, and Sandro's late withdrawal at Old Trafford has been put down to cramp.

Stoke's Erik Pieters was another who limped off last weekend, but he is not expected to be fit for his side's trip to the capital. The Dutch international joins Peter Odemwingie, Geoff Cameron and Stephen Ireland in the treatment room, and will be deputised by Marc Muniesa.

Mame Biram Diouf was left on the bench against Leicester after a late return from international duty, but the Senegalese striker should be back in the starting XI in support of Peter Crouch, who could be a QPR transfer target in January, having worked with Redknapp three times previously.

Oussama Assaidi is still working his way back to fitness and will likely have to settle for a place on the bench, but Hughes has options aplenty on the flanks, with Jonathan Walters, Victor Moses, Bojan and Marko Arnautovic all in contention.

There has only been one draw between these sides in their last 15 meetings, dating back to 1998.

Recent form

QPR: LWLLL

Stoke: LWWDL

Possible starting lineups

QPR: Green; Isla, Ferdinand, Caulker, Traore; Fer, Sandro, Barton; Hoilett, Austin, Vargas

Stoke: Begovic; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wilson, Shawcross, Muniesa; N'Zonzi, Whelan; Moses, Diouf, Walters; Crouch

Sports Mole says: 1-1

Who will win Saturday's match between QPR and Stoke at Loftus Road?

QPR
Stoke
Draw
QPR
13.0%
Stoke
66.7%
Draw
20.4%
Mame Biram Diouf of Stoke City celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mates during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Stoke City at Etihad Stadium on August 30, 2014
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