Everton play host to QPR tonight at Goodison Park in what is surprisingly a clash near the lower reaches of the Premier League table.
Few would have predicted Everton’s 2014/15 season plight, which sees them face Harry Redknapp’s up and down QPR side with just four points separating the teams.
Everton have struggled of late, winning just one game in their last five. They have drawn two and lost two of their other games in recent weeks.
Roberto Martinez has some fantastic talent at his disposal but at present he cannot inspire the best out of them. His side’s top scorer this season is predictably Romelu Lukaku but he has only bagged seven goals so far, something surprise-package Southampton and the big guns such as Chelsea and Manchester City’s top strikers are surpassing with ease.
This lowly goalscoring record from Lukaku cannot be completely laid at the feet of the striker however, and one must look at the Toffees’ midfield as a factor in the equation also.
Ross Barkley is Martinez’s favoured central midfielder but he is still working his way back into the rhythm of playing every week following his early-season injury.
James McCarthy offers a different dimension but is doubtful for tonight’s game. Gareth Barry and Leon Osman are being shoehorned into the side, either on the left or through the middle in recent weeks. Neither are known for their pace but Barry’s passing ability and Osman’s tenacity should be yielding more results.
Aiden McGeady offers a creative outlet but his consistency often lets him down.
Everton lay in a precarious position and form will need to pick up soon if they’re to move away from QPR’s all the more familiar territory near the bottom.
Win, and Everton can move up to a more respectable 10th place. If they lose, they won’t shift positions but it will add further pressure to what is becoming a much tougher campaign than expected for the Liverpudlians.
For QPR, it is a case of finding some kind of consistency to hold onto, however it is difficult with such a limited squad – talent wise. Redknapp’s side have lost nine of their 15 Premier League games this season.
The Hoops will be hoping for a solid defensive display tonight against what can, at times be a deadly attacking threat from the Toffees. They will take heart from winning two of their last three games though so the Merseysiders will need to be wary of a buoyant dressing room.
Lose tonight and QPR will have the same number of losses and the joint-worst defeats total, alongside Leicester City. However, a win could help the R’s leapfrog Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Burnley.
According to Sky Sports Steven Naismith (hamstring), Darren Gibson (knee) and John Stones (ankle/foot), will all face late fitness tests as well as James McCarthy (hamstring), while QPR have only one player out – Charlie Austin through suspension.
A test for Everton, particularly with their recent struggle to find a decent run of form but a match they should win.
Everton 3-1 QPR
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena