Bottom of the league Queens Park Rangers will be desperately seeking three points when they welcome high-flying Everton at Loftus Road on Sunday (4pm BST).
The West London club have endured a winless start to the season, drawing two and losing five of their seven fixtures to date.
Their record of six goals scored and 16 conceded highlights problems at both ends of the pitch for manager Mark Hughes, who is currently the bookies favourite to be the first manager out of a job this season at 6/5 with Paddy Power and William Hill.
Reports suggest that QPR owner Tony Fernandes is fully behind Hughes, who saved the club from relegation when he took over from Neil Warnock last season, but if current form continues that faith can surely only last so long.
Hughes has now spent in the region of £32 million on new recruits since arriving at the club in mid-January, in addition to a number of high-salaried free transfers, and Fernandes could be forgiven for wanting a little more bang for his buck. Two points from seven fixtures hardly befits a talented squad containing a good mix of youth and experience.
There have been some moments of promise from QPR, most notably their excellent first half performance away to Tottenham Hotspur. In that match they controlled possession through neat midfield interplay and were slightly unfortunate not be more than one nil up at the interval. However, a second half implosion that saw them concede twice in three minutes either side of the hour mark gave their hosts an advantage they were always unlikely to cede.
In many ways that performance typified QPR’s season. Their busy, proficient midfield, which includes the likes of Shawn Wright Phillips and new signings Park Ji-Sung and Esteban Granero, has been neat, tidy and progressive to a point, but ultimately lacking in final third incision. From a fifth worst in the league 12.4 shots per match, QPR have scored six goals, worse than only two other clubs.
Behind the midfield, the defence has been little short of disastrous, conceding over two goals per match and giving up the fifth highest number of shots on goal in the league. Unless Hughes can find a quick solution to either his team’s goalscoring or defensive problems, preferably both, it is hard to see QPR improving greatly any time soon.
QPR have conceded four goals from headers this season, the joint-most in the Premier League, and on Sunday come up against the team who have scored more headed goals (6) than any other. Everton are one of the most prominent users of crosses and long balls in the league and will provide a stern test for the shaky home defence.
Only four teams have scored more goals than Everton’s 14 so far this season, 14 goals that against eight conceded have yielded four wins, two draws and just one defeat. Usually slow starters and strong finishers, Everton are ahead of the curve this season, performing well and looking good to challenge for a top six finish.
The permanent return of Steven Pienaar from Tottenham was always going to be key to Everton having a good season. He enjoys a superb partnership with Leighton Baines down the left, the pair perfectly attuned to each other’s movement. Between them they have already provided five assists this season.
Nikica Jelavic has continued the prolific form he has displayed since joining from Glasgow Rangers in January, with four goals in six so far this campaign, while Marouane Fellaini has been particularly dominant in the air, scoring three times, including the winner in the 1-0 victory over Manchester United on the first day of the season.
Fellaini has been ruled out of Sunday’s match due to a knee injury, which could present his Belgian compatriot Kevin Mirallas with another opportunity to prove his worth following his £6 million move from Olympiakos. Mirallas has been bright and busy in his appearances to date, but will be hoping to add to the one goal he currently has to his credit.
Everton’s defence has not exactly been fully watertight, conceding just over a goal per match to date, but the Toffees have carried enough of an offensive threat for this not to be too much of an issue, and did manage to keep clean sheets against both Manchester United and Swansea.
Queens Park Rangers v Everton Betting Tips Verdict
- QPR (38/15, which is just over 5/2, with Pinnacle to win this match) are in grave need of three points to get their campaign up and running, but Everton are in excellent form and even without the injured Fellaini are likely to have too much for their hosts. Therefore, back Everton to win @ 13/10 with Paddy Power.
- Jelavic has scored three goals in his last two matches for Everton and has a skill set that is likely to trouble the QPR defence on Sunday. Therefore, back Nikica Jelavic to score at anytime @ 6/4 with Blue Square or Boylesports.