Everton look for capital gains

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

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Everton travel to QPR on Sunday afternoon as midfield concerns give David Moyes a selection headache. The League Cup defeat at Leeds highlighted the lack of depth within the squad, especially in midfield. Marouane Fellaini’s knee injury rules him out and Tony Hibbert remains sidelined so at least two personnel changes are required from the Wigan draw.

Moyes: No pressure on Hitzlsperger

Having signed on Friday, Thomas Hitzlsperger is one option and will be eligible subject to international clearance. However, since he is working his way back from a serious injury, the former Germany international is unlikely to feature at QPR. Another on the road to recovery is Darron Gibson. Sorely missed, Gibson is back in training but a place on the bench seems more likely than a starting berth.

Given Everton’s poor record against QPR, no win in three and just two wins in 13, David Moyes may err on the cautious side in his selection. John Heitinga could come into midfield and shield the back four alongside Phil Neville and that would allow Leon Osman to play behind Nikica Jelavic with Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas making up the midfield.

More attacking options exist in Victor Anichebe and Steven Naismith. However, with Naismith yet to find his feet and Anichebe better further forward, the Heitinga option seems most likely. Elsewhere, the continued absence of Tony Hibbert and the use of Phil Neville in midfield means Seamus Coleman will continue his stint at right back. Inconsistent so far, this provides Coleman with a chance to stake his claim.

The home side are without former Everton man Andrew Johnson with the striker nursing a serious knee injury. In defence, Mark Hughes has slight concerns over Clint Hill and Fabio will undergo a fitness test. The home side will look to address their current form having lost three leagues games in a row, conceding two or more in each of them.

By contrast, Everton boast fine form with just one defeat in 16 league games. Having found their attacking stride, Everton boast a European high of 141 shots whilst scoring two or more in each of their last four league games. Despite the midfield shortage, the Toffees are buoyant and will arrive in confident mood.

Spending vast sums in the summer, pressure is building in some quarters as Mark Hughes finds his side propping up the rest. While new signing Esteban Granero is showing his class, others are struggling; Park Ji-Sung looks a shadow of the player he was at Manchester United. The signings need time but whether Hughes is afforded the same luxury remains to be seen.

The visitors may look to exploit QPR’s aerial weaknesses, although the loss of Fellaini is a hindrance. Conceding four headed goals, no Premier League team has fared worse than QPR. Everton lie at the other end of the spectrum having scored six headed goals – no Premier League team has more. In light of these statistics, set pieces and Leighton Baines' delivery could prove crucial in this encounter.

Everton head into this clash with a clear incentive for the three points as a win gives the Toffees their best Premier League start. On their way to finishing fourth in 2004-05, Everton had 16 points from eight games and a win on Sunday would put Everton on 17. Often thriving when up against it, do not bet against Everton continuing their recent form in spite of midfield problems.

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