Everton v QPR - Match Preview

Gloomy: It has been yet another difficult summer for David Moyes, who is hoping the players can help lift everyone's mood.


Right, lets try again shall we?

The 2011/12 season finally splutters into life for Everton on Saturday following last week's game with Spurs was postponed due to the civil unrest in London.

Good job everything is all hunky dory up at Everton isn't it?

Ahem.....

The Toffees begin their campaign with gloomy financial clouds hanging over them. We all knew the club was skint, but the transcript of a meeting with the Blue Union and Bill Kenwright painted a startlingly worrying picture of the club's future – but that is for another blog (to follow).

The only hope in the short-term of course is if the current squad, still hugely talented don't forget, can get us off to a good start against newly promoted Queens Park Rangers. The extra week's break may have worked in our favour as it allowed Mikel Arteta to build-up his match fitness with 60 minutes in Monday's hastily arranged friendly against Bohemians in Dublin.

The small squad will already be tested due to the absence of Seamus Coleman, who is both injured and suspended, as is Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.  Arteta will almost certainly start though, perhaps on the right, though Leon Osman's late season form may see him take the right wing position instead.

The return of QPR as well as Norwich to the top division gives the league a very retro early 90s feel to it. When I first started going to Everton games around 1993 the pair were among the top sides in the division, regularly finishing in the top half of the table.

Much of the Hoops' success in that era was due to Les Ferdinand, an England international striker who had the annoying knack of scoring against us every time he played – including a hat-trick  in a 5-3 win at Goodison back in the 1992/93 season.

But Ferdinand's sale signaled a decline for the London club and relegation occurred in 1996. During their 15 years outside the top flight they even dropped down to League One and had spells in administration, before Neil Warnock guided them superbly to the Championship title last season.

Before the mega-money take-over at Man City they were also the world's richest club following a take-over in 2007 by Formula One tycoons and multi-millionaires Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore as well as the family of steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.

However, they didn't invest as heavily as Sheikh Mansour did at City, meaning Warnock's promotion last year was down to good management rather than the cheque-book management we have seen up at Eastlands.

A difficult summer has seen the club quiet in the transfer market (ha, we know the feeling) with only Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell  the notable arrivals, as well as vice-chairman Amit Bhatia resigning over a huge hike in ticket prices following promotion by Briatore. The need for recruitments was laid bare on the opening day when Bolton went to Loftus Road and came away with a 4-0 victory.

However, things have taken an upward turn for Rangers with Lotus principal Tony Fernandes buying out Briatore's stake this week. He has pledged to back Warnock in a the transfer market – already a £4million bid for Scott Parker has been muted – as well as reviewing the club's ticket pricing structure.

New signings aren't expected to be in place for Saturday though, meaning their main creative force will be the mercurial Adel Taarabt. The Moroccan won the Championship Player of the Year Award last season following a succession of dazzling performances, and it will be interesting to see how he copes back in the Premier League following a short but unsuccessful stint with Tottenham two years ago.

Team news:

Seamus Coleman and  Diniyar Bilyaletdinov are both suspended for the Blues but Mikel Arteta has declared himself fit following a foot injury sustained in pre-season.

QPR will be without Clint Hill following his red card last weekend while Kieron Dyer is also absent after he was stretchered off with a foot injury just minutes into his debut last week. Recent signing Bruno Perone is yet to receive international clearance, while strikers Rob Hulse (knee) and Jamie Mackie (broken leg) remain out.


Match stats (from the official site)

1 This is the first meeting between the teams since QPR triumphed 3-0 at Loftus Road in April 1996, the last encounter at Goodison was Everton’s 2-0 win in November 1995.

2 The eight Premier League matches between the sides have produced 35 goals, with Everton winning just two of those matches and losing five.

3 Everton have met QPR in their opening league game of the season once before – in August 1976 the Toffees won 4-0 at Loftus Road.

4 David Moyes leads Neil Warnock 5-1 in wins in the managerial head-to-head with two games drawn.

5 The Toffees have not kept a clean sheet in their opening game since 1998 (0-0 v Aston Villa).

6 A defeat for Everton will mean four successive opening game losses for the first time ever. The Toffees have lost six of their previous eight opening matches.

7 It will be Tony Hibbert's 250th Everton start should the full-back begin the game and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov requires one more game for 50 in the league for the Toffees.

Key player QPR: Adel Taarabt, most of QPR's attacking threat will go through him, he needs to be closely watched.

Last time: Everton 2-0 QPR 22nd November 1995
                   Stuart, Rideout

Prediction: A tougher than expected 2-0 win for the Toffees, though it won't be easy.    

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