Everton need to win on Monday night. After an eight-game run without a defeat through October and November, the Toffees now find themselves in 13th place on the Premier League table and mired in another streak, this one four matches without a win. If early-season expectations are to be met, Roberto Martinez's squad need to get back on track with three points from QPR.
Four players will be assessed ahead of Monday night's match. Darron Gibson, James McCarthy, Steven Naismith, and surprisingly, John Stones will all be checked before taking to the pitch against Harry Redknapp's side. Martinez commented on Stones' status on the Everton website. Here is what he had to say about the young defender's early return:
"John is ahead of schedule - probably two or three weeks ahead - but I would expect that. He's such a quick healer and he hasn't stopped for one second trying to win those small margins to get back early. He's come back and trained once with the team and he came through that really, really well. Now it's just a matter of making a good measurement of when it's right to allow him to be involved in a competitive game."
Christian Atsu will not play after suffering a hamstring injury against Krasnodar. Gareth Barry is suspended for yellow card accumulation and also won't suit up against the Rangers.
Everton catch QPR at a good time as Redknapp will be without top goalscorer Charlie Austin, who is suspended for the match. Bobby Zamora should take Austin's place up front. Croatian Niko Kranjcar and Dutchman Leroy Fer will also figure into the Rangers' attack. Defender Steven Caulker is said to be fit after a controversial head injury suffered at an outing with teammates.
QPR have yet to win on the road this season.
What to Watch For
Everton have disappointed at home of late, but QPR have had no luck outside of Loftus Road. Both teams are desperately seeking a win, but Everton should have the advantage.
It will be interesting to see if any of the young players who started against Krasnodar managed to impress their way into the starting eleven. Luke Garbutt and Arouna Kone both performed well on Thursday, and could see more time against QPR.
Depending on the results of the late fitness tests, Martinez could be looking at an injury list with only one or two names on it. A nine day gap between matches for most of the starting lineup should amount to a well-rested squad.
Time and TV Info
Monday, December 15. 20:00 GMT, 3pm EST
TV Info (via livesoccertv.com)
The Final Word
Everton are well-rested, now nearly injury-free, playing at home, and a stronger side than QPR. They should get a much-needed win Monday night.