Queens Park Rangers-Everton Preview
Monday evening's game against Everton will be an opportunity for Queens Park Rangers to prove their Premier League credentials.
Inconsistent at best this season, Harry Redknapp's QPR (4-2-9) have finally pulled out of the relegation zone thanks to two wins in their last three league games. However, those victories have come against fellow promoted clubs Burnley and Leicester - who occupy the bottom two spots in the table - and Rednapp's side are yet to beat anyone in the Premier League's top half.
Everton (4-6-5), may not be in the top half right now, but do have that level of quality, and a win for QPR at Goodison Park would also help rectify the Hoops' horrendous record away from home.
Rangers, who have won just two of their last 39 top-flight games away from home (stretching back to their last stint in the Premier League), have failed to score in five of their seven away games this season, which all ended in defeat.
"Our home form has been excellent - we've had great results - but we need to improve our away record," Redknapp said. "It will be tough against Everton - they're a very good side and Goodison Park is a tough place to go.
"We have had two vital home games against Leicester and Burnley. We needed to get the six points and we managed to do that. We've got to come up with a winning formula to get a positive result away. We need to get points on the board sooner rather than later."
QPR top-scorer Charlie Austin will miss the trip to Everton thanks to his red card in the win over Burnley.
Everton have struggled to adapt to the dual pressures of challenging in the Premier League and Europa League, and won just one of their last six league matches.
The Toffees did manage to top their Europa League group despite a 1-0 defeat to FC Krasnodar on Thursday, and manager Roberto Martinez believes the performances of some of the young players in that game should be a huge positive for the club.
"I'm looking at some of the players and I'm really excited about their futures," said Martinez. "Obviously you don't want to lose football games, but we could afford not to be focused on the result as much last night because we'd already done the job.
"There are a couple of players who I feel now need to be playing week-in and week-out in the league and we'll look into that and maybe a couple of loan periods will be what they need. And then we've got a couple of others, two or three players who I think are ready to participate in the first team and really try to fight for their place. You look at the talent that we have and it's really exciting for the future."
Everton are unbeaten in their last four at home and have conceded just two goals in that run. However, 11 goals conceded in their first three matches at Goodison this season means that they are tied (with West Bromwich Albion) for the worst home defensive record in the Premier League.
QPR's defence has improved since a restructuring of the side away from a back-three to a more traditional 4-4-2 (which has also coincided with the removal of Rio Ferdinand from the line-up), but Rangers still have the worst defensive record in the league, with 27 goals conceded in 15 games.
Everton knocked Rangers out of the FA Cup with a 4-0 third-round win last season, and the Toffees also took four points off QPR back in 2012/13 (last time they were in the top-flight) with a 2-0 win at Goodison and a 1-1 draw at Loftus Road.