Change optimum word as Everton welcome QPR

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty ImagesEverton and Leon Osman, right, have gotten back on track since losing to QPR in August 2011. Rangers, with Jose Boswinga, left, appear headed to the back to the Championship.

An ever-changing hive of activity, Premier League football has the ability to alter in the blink of an eye and the next visitors to Goodison Park can attest to that. Undergoing a massive squad overhaul, Queens Park Rangers are on a slippery slope toward the Championship.

Rewind to the last time QPR visited Everton and the contrast is almost unthinkable. On the opening day of last season, playing their first top-flight match since relegation in 1996, the away side shocked Goodison thanks to a Tommy Smith strike.

Riding the crest of a wave following promotion, the contrast between the clubs' supporters was stark. Everton lost to QPR, then won just two of their opening seven matches, sold Mikel Arteta to Arsenal, invested no money in the squad and faced protests from aggrieved supporters.

Ironically, the QPR match winner that day is no longer at the club. His departure is just one of a host of changes since then. Both sides have undergone alterations, especially the London club.

From the eleven who faced Everton last season, Akos Buzsaky is a free agent, six ply their trade in the Championship, Patrick Agyemang is on loan from Stevenage to Portsmouth, and Palermo loaned Alejandro Faurlin. Adel Taarabt and Shaun Derry are the sole survivors from that opening-day success.

Regarding the home side, Everton have also undergone changes, although not to the same degree. Phil Neville started at right back with the remaining defenders formed the only settled part of the side; Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin were the centre-back pairing and Leighton Baines occupied his customary left back spot.

In the midfield, Leon Osman began on the right, central midfield comprised of John Heitinga and Jack Rodwell. Ross Barkley played on the left, and, while his progress has since stalled, he was the best Everton player on the day.

Tasked with leading the opening day attack, David Moyes opted for Tim Cahill and Jermaine Beckford. Eventually strengthening in the subsequent transfer windows, the Everton squad has evolved from the one dismally beaten in this previous meeting.

Skip forward to the present day -- Neville is leaving at the end of the season while Osman and Heitinga tend to feature in their preferred positions. In the other positions, Barkley remains on the first-team fringes and Messrs. Rodwell, Cahill and Beckford have left for pastures new.

Both sides have undergone numerous changes since the 2011-12 opener. However, Everton -- who managed a 1-1 draw at Loftus Road in October -- have fared substantially better. Quickly revamping their side, QPR have struggled for form and consistency throughout the current campaign. New signing Loic Remy is proving one of the few bright spots.

The monetary difference between the sides is vast. Forced to work in a financial straightjacket, Moyes has carefully built his Everton side into the strongest in recent memory.

Securing survival last season, QPR needed a similarly careful approach. Instead, they have sacked managers and watched their successors squandered millions on footballing mercenaries.

Looking at the match on Saturday, Moyes can call on the returning duo of Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini after both served their two-match suspensions. Able to close the gap on Tottenham, as Spurs are without a fixture this week, a win is imperative for Moyes’ men.

Three points can help maintain the European push for the home side and may also be the final nail in the QPR coffin. Safety remains a mathematical possibility, but defeat at Goodison would make it increasingly unlikely. In a cruel twist of fate, the side that rolled over for QPR two Augusts ago could be the one to consign them to the Premier League scrapheap.

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