Everton face Queens Park Rangers on Saturday seeking revenge for the defeat handed to them by the newly-promoted side in the Toffees’ first Premier League game of the season. To help David Moyes achieve that end, a number of first team players previously ruled out by injury, including Leon Osman, Jack Rodwell and January signing Nikica Jelavic, could be available.
The Everton that hosted QPR in August and the Everton that travels to Loftus Road this weekend could hardly be a more different prospect. In August the atmosphere around Everton was distinctly depressing, after a summer that had gone by without significant additions to the Everton squad and bubbling discontent from a growing section of supporters. The discontent has not truly dissipated but rather been masked by a January transfer window that saw Gibson, Jelavic, Steven Pienaar and the now-departed Landon Donovan signed and results finally pick up on a consistent basis. The emergence of Denis Stracqualursi as a hard-working centre-forward and the presence of the exciting Royston Drenthe have also lifted the mood.
After a fixture-free weekend due to Liverpool’s involvement in the League Cup final – Everton were originally scheduled to travel to Anfield for the Merseyside derby – the question now is what impact that break will have on the form of Moyes’ side. It is as likely to have stilted Everton’s moment as refreshed weary legs and minds, and only time will tell. QPR meanwhile go into the fixture without a win in their last four Premier League games and, if the FA Cup is included, it is five matches since Mark Hughes’ outfit last tasted success. The Rs are in the midst of a run of an altogether different sort of form, one Everton is aiming to prolong.
Perhaps as important as the return of a handful of players towards fitness is the return unscathed of a number of first team players from international duty. Leighton Baines and John Heitinga played for England and the Netherlands respectively at Wembley, while Fellaini completed the full 90 minutes as Belgium drew with Greece, Tim Howard helped the United States to defeat Italy and Pienaar captained South Africa in a goalless draw with Senegal. With a number of senior figures competing across the globe having returned safely, those same players will need to re-discover the spirit and form of the last few weeks to avoid a similar result to the one that started the season so poorly against QPR.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on QPR v Everton