West Ham United-Queens Park Rangers Preview
Were you to hand West Ham United or Queens Park Rangers the proverbial form book, they would likely give it the Fahrenheit 451 treatment.
The title of Ray Bradbury's classic novel, of course, refers to the temperature at which books burn, but it is their respective seasons these sides hope catch fire when they meet at Loftus Road on Saturday.
The only teams to have taken fewer points than Rangers and the Hammers over the last six matches are Hull City and Newcastle United.
West Ham (11-10-12) sat third after 15 games but three wins in 18 since have seen them mired in a battle to hold onto a top-ten place.
The wretched form in the second half has heaped the pressure of West Ham boss Sam Allardyce, particularly in light of the club's impending move to the Olympic Stadium next season making them a more attractive prospect to potential replacements.
Allardyce, whose contract expires at the end of the season, believes his side have become victims of their own success and suggested the downturn in form has mitigating circumstances.
"We haven't lived up to that expectation or coped with it as well as I thought we might," Allardyce told the official club website. "There are several reasons for that; reaching the level of football we played, injuries have played a part as well as fatigue for some of the players who have been playing in the Premier League for the first time.
"I think that is to be expected, and overall they have performed better than we expected. It's been a great experience for them and hopefully they will learn from it and improve next season."
Time is running out for QPR (7-5-21) who must start picking up points now if they want to enjoy another campaign in the top flight.
The Loftus Road outfit currently occupy the second relegation place, two points behind Leicester City and Hull.
In all likelihood they are three points from safety given their inferior goal difference, having played a game more than their closest rivals.
QPR head coach Chris Ramsay anticipates a tough encounter on Saturday despite the conjecture regarding Allardyce's future at West Ham.
"I don't see why there would be speculation about his job - he's done very well at West Ham," Ramsay told the official club website. "Sam will prepare his team as he always does. The speculation about his future will have no impact on the game.
"I'm fully expecting a blood and thunder derby. We will be positive and on the front foot and going for the win."
West Ham will be without forwards Andy Carroll (knee) and Diafra Sakho (hip), who is the club's leading scorer this season with 10. Allardyce's side will also be missing defenders James Tomkins (shoulder), while Guy Demel (calf) is doubtful.
There was good news on the injury front for QPR as Leroy Fer and Yun Suk-Young returned to training and are in line to play on Saturday. Ramsay will still be without long-term injury victims Rio Ferdinand (leg), Eduardo Vargas and Alejandro Faurlin (both knee).
West Ham beat QPR 2-0 at Upton Park in October. Nedum Onuoha scored an own goal just five minutes in to put the Hammers ahead and Sakho scored just before the hour mark to double the advantage.
The clubs have split the Premier League meetings 3-3-3, with QPR's last win coming in April 1996.