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ROVERS V EVERTON - Saturday 2nd February

Well this Saturday sees Rovers take on Everton at Ewood in what is a big game in the context of our season. Everton are flying high above us and must consider themselves as real contenders for the 4th champions league spot. We on the other hand see them as potential UEFA cup rivals. It's got the makings of a decent game. It's also one of the games that really should benefit from the new price structure. At £20 a ticket Everton are sure to bring large numbers, and being a Saturday 3.00pm kick off against fairly local opposition we really should be hopeful of a decent turnout all round. Anyway, lets have a look at 'The Toffees'.

Everton, formed in 1878 as St. Domingo F.C., were founder members of the football league in 1888. Their honors read:-

League 1 champions: 1891 , 1915 , 1928 , 1932 , 1939 , 1963 , 1970 , 1985 , 1987

League 2 champions: 1931

Fa Cup Winners: 1906 , 1933 , 1966 , 1984 , 1995

Charity Shield Winners: 1928 , 1932 , 1963 , 1970 , 1984 , 1985 ,1986 , 1987 , 1995

Euro Cup Winner Cup: 1985

Even so, I'm sure they'll get a good round of 'what's it like to win F all' from the less-enlightened of our fans.

NEW STADIUM

The major events surrounding the future of Everton at the moment revolve around leaving Goodison Park and the building of a new stadium 4 miles away at Kirkby. Now to most away fans who regularly have to suffer the 'comfort' of the Bullens Road Stand this sounds like a good thing. But to Evertonians, whose team has played at Goodison Park since it was built in 1892, it hasn't gone down too well.

For the last couple of years Everton have been looking at possible locations for their new ground. Their current preferred location is at Kirkby in Knowsley. In July last year Everton released the first impressive images of the new stadium and in the first few days of 2008 they submitted final plans to Knowsley council for their new stadium. This could cost anything between £35mill and £135mill and will be part of a new £400mill retail park.

efc_stadium_home_203x152.jpg

However many Everton fans are unhappy that the club plans to relocate outside the city. Despite being just 4 miles away the location of the new ground is technically not within the boundary of the city of Liverpool. A website dedicated to the "Keep Everton in our City" campaign can be found here (http://www.keioc.net).

In July of last year, conscious of the opposition to the plans, Everton arranged a ballot of season ticket holders and club members about whether or not they supported the plans. 70% of people eligible chose to vote and, maybe surprisingly, a 59% majority said they were in favour of the move.

I asked Licker, a member from www.ToffeeTalk.com, on his fans-eye view on the new ground situation and here's what he said:-

"It turns out that there was a lot of spin issued by the Club who where desperate to get a Stadium on the cheap. Sir Terry Leahy (Tesco Owner) was brought on board by Kenwright and Wyness with a promise that a stadium would be built on land acquired by Tescos, who also said they would Pay £50 million towards the cost of the stadium. But they have since said the £50m would not be handed over to EFC, it was the outlay to acquire the land.

Knowsley Council would not Give Tesco's permission for the land on their own and the Kirkby Residents are right against it. The Transport to and from is not adequate and they are not going to spend Millions on upgrading the Roads, Railways and Parking systems for somebody thats only going to use it on matchdays

Now Liverpool City Council are producing sites and Plans but EFC are not in a position to pay 400 million for a new stadium and are convinced that Kirkby is the "deal of the Century" so its a bit hit and miss at the moment. This has given everybody a chance to stand back and look at it more closely and fans are becoming more disgruntled as time passes."

PAST MEETING

If I said April fools day and Blackburn Rovers to you I'm sure I know what most of you would think of. Minis, ferraris, Stan's leggings, Craig Short, Matt Jansen and a 5-0 drubbing of Burnley. But 6 years prior to that, April fools day 1995 was the date of a nerve-wrackingly tense performance by the lads at Goodison Park. Rovers were leading the Premier League table by 3 points with just 8 game left to play when they went to take on a struggling Everton side who were looking over their shoulder in a season when four teams were to be relegated. Rovers set off like a train. Chris Sutton scored with 13 seconds as most fans were still finding their seats. A few minutes later Shearer slammed home from the edge of the box to put the championship chasing side 2 up and on course for a routine win. However, that was as good as it got. Midway through the first half Graham Stuart pulled a goal back and Rovers fans had to endure a nightmare last hour.

Rovers could hardly muster an attack as Everton piled on the pressure. Late in the second half the mother of all goalmouth scrambles occurred. The ball seemed to be stuck on the Rovers goalline for a good 5 seconds with everyone hacking away. The awful view from the lower tier of the away end meant you had no idea what was happening and were just waiting for the net to bulge. Finally the ball was hacked away. Later TV replays would reveal Colin Hendry, on the floor, trying to head the ball off the line whilst everyone else's boots were flying.

Eventually Rovers hung on to win 2-1. So desperate was it that Shearer, practically clean through from the half way line in injury time, chose to boot the ball into touch near the corner flag to waste precious seconds. Everton fans berated 6-0-6 after the game with tales of 'boring Blackburn' and how they are grinding out the title. A 1-0 win at QPR 3 days later did nothing to dispel this theory. From them two precious wins onwards Rovers never looked the same again, nervously picking up 7 more points to stumble over the Premiership winning line. However the fact that Rovers scored 3 more goals than Man Utd that season (12 more than them at home) is a testimony to how good our football had been for most of the season.

Footnote - April Fools day is lucky for us. Since 1990 our results have been:-

2002 Southampton (H) Won 2-0

2001 Burnley (H) Won 5-0

2000 Sheff Utd (H) Won 5-0

1995 Everton (A) Won 2-1

1991 Middlesboro (H) Won 1-0

THE QUESTIONNAIRE

In order to get the opposition fans views on things I asked Licker from www.toffeetalk.com the following:-

For 2007/2008 what were the Evertons' fans realistic amibtions at the start of the season and what are they currently?

We had a topic in our forum asking the same thing and most of us would have been happy with a top 8 position just to consolidate our league status. Most suggested that it would be the usual top 4 followed by Spurs, Newcastle, Man City, Everton and Blackburn fighting for the Euro places. Obviously the Spurs and Newcastle threat has not materialised ( shame) So now we see our chance to consolidate 5th or 6th place with an outside chance of sneaking into the top 4.

If you (or any other team outside the 'big 4') were to make the Champions League do you think it's realistic going forward that they could so it season after season.

No, at this present time we're still way off challenging on a regular basis rather like yourselves and several other teams.

Until we get a multi millionaire with some financial clout to come on board we are always going to struggle to keep up, there are several clubs who could possibly do it on the odd occasion but not on a regular basis.

This season who's your best players and where's your weakest link?

Our best performer this season, as he was last season also, is Jolean Lescott. He must be amongst the top 3 centre halfs in the country at the moment and if he does'nt get into the England team for the next game it would be a criminal offence by Capello. He has been awesome for us in any position he plays. The usual suspects to mention would be Arteta and Cahill but they have lost a bit of form just lately. That might have something to do with Stephen Pienaar going off to African Tournament. He came on loan and it took him about 4/5 games to get his fitness up and get used to the speed of the prem but he has been great for the midfield plays a lot of good football. He's always passing and moving and I think they've missed him since he's gone.

The weak link seems to be the fullbacks. Baines is never fit and Valente is not that good. We also struggle at right back with Hibbert being a bit off form and Neville having to fill in at midfield quite a bit.

James McFadden starred for Scotland but couldn't get a game at Everton. Do you agree with his £5m+ move to Birmingham?

In a word yes. He came here with lots of potential almost 4 years ago and has made 50 odd starts and had 50 odd sub appearances. Total goals scored was 11 league goals and 4 cup goals. The potential never materialised for us and I think £5.75 million was accepted by all the fans as a good price for him. we wish him luck in the future though.

James Vaughan has looked a very good young English striker in the few games I've seen him. What's the Everton fans opinion on him?

I think the fans and the manager rate him very highly although the last couple of seasons he seem unable to stay away from injuries. He needs a good run of games and we think he might become a better player than Andy Johnson.

Fairly standard question. Whats your opinion of Rovers this season?

My personal opinion is that they are like ourselves. Rovers are slowly developing into a good all round solid team who on their day can beat most sides, I think a lot of credit for that must go to Mark Hughes who, similar to David Moyes, is steadily building a squad that gets better and better each year.

Which players do you rate at Ewood?

I think David Bentley is a very good player for you and Roque Santa Cruz seems to be doing the Business, which proves you can pick up good players without having to pay 10-15 million for them.

Morten Gamst Pedersen has been poor for Rovers for about 12 months now. Do opposition fans realise this or is he still regarded as a 6 million pound cultured, creative wing wizard?

I actually never rated Pedersen, he scored a few great goals but i'm not sure he added an awful lot to the team performance, a bit like McFadden, I think you would accept 5.75 million for him wouldn't you? (Probably yes, Jan would accept 0.75 million)

Lee Carsley isn't overly popular at Ewood. He arrived at Ewood the year we went down and we never won a Premier League game with him in the side! I'm suprised he's a regular in a top 7 side like Everton. How's he doing?

Lee has been great for us but just recently has started to look tired possibly feeling his age, because he is one player we dont have a replacement for and he never gets a rest. Plays every game for us and always gives his all, a real Pro.

You've read my memories of a previous Rovers-Everton game. Have you any memories of that game or of any other game between the sides.

None at all really, dont mean to be disrespectful to you but previous games against Blackburn have never excited me or stuck in my memory, maybe this one will I dont know.

We got put out of the UEFA cup off , err, Larissa. What did you make of them?

Average foreign side, though we almost messed it up ourselves. Its the old addage that says you never know in a cup game do you, anything and everything can go wrong at times

What did you think of your Carling Cup defeat to Chelsea last Wednesday. Do you think Moyes was a bit too negative in the second leg?

Possibly, but I think his reasoning for going 4-5-1 at home was hopefully to avoid an early goal from Chelsea which would have killed the game early. We were still in it till 25 minutes from the end, then they scored and that put paid to that. We all hoped we could sneak it at home but really we are so far behind the better sides that it was'nt unexpected that we are not Wembley bound.

How far do you hope to go in the UEFA cup. Are you just enjoying the ride or can you win it?

Dont think for one minute we can win it but I would hope to get past BRANN FC and possibly squeeze past FIORENTINA with a bit of luck and a good performance over 2 legs, but I think thats as far as we can go.

And finally, can we have a prediction for the game at Ewood please?

Depends on a lot really, How we play on the day, which formation we play, if its football we play or the long ball. This season we have be looking to win at most away grounds, playing 4-5-1 and sneaking a goal or two. However if we have to go 4-4-2 i will settle for a 1-1 draw but I wont be surprised if its 2-1 to us.

Fernandes and Lescott for Everton, Bentley for you.

Whatever the outcome I hope everybody enjoys a good game, and best of luck for the rest of the season.

Thanks mate for taking the time to answer the questions.

MATCH VERDICT

Our current form has divided many members of this board. Scrappy wins over Derby and Sunderland masked poor performances and on another day Boro would have buried us. However we fully deserved a point at Villa Park and are now 6 unbeaten in the league! Cup-games aside Everton are in cracking form. Only Man United and Arsenal have beat them in their last 13 prem games. Rovers have the supposed advantage of a week to recover from the Villa game whilst Everton are in action on Wednesday against Tottenham. At the time of writing there are no new arrivals at Rovers whilst Everton have only acquired Dan Gosling from Plymouth for £2mill. This could well change before the game.

One strange plus for Rovers is the niggling injury to Ryan Nelson. The Admiral hasn't been the same since his return from his last injury and at least this is now being recognised. Now that he's stopped conceding soft penalties, Ooijer does a good job at centre half and hopefully in the long term we'll have the Nelson of old back. Unfortunately the loss of Samba (suspended) for the Everton game leaves us very short of centre half cover.

So my prediction? Obviously it's a tough game. A few weeks ago when I first started looking at this preview I had us down for a definite defeat. However there were positive signs at Villa Park and the team spirit certainly looked OK following the winner at the Reebok. It's worrying that we look better away than at home though. I was going to go for a 1-1 draw but our vulnerability at set pieces, especially in the absence of Samba, makes me plump for a 1-2 defeat.

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Everton are quite like Villa in the way thy play, altouh a little less pace outwide and a little more guile, goal scroing and trickery from the middle. Also we will be at home.

If I was Hughes I would be sorely tempted to play 451 again and contain Everton rather than going out to hurt them, especially since Samba's absence will weaken us at the back. I hate being that negative but really Everton are a very good side who are set up in a fashion which can cause us maximum damage on the counter and from set pieces.

No point in guessing the team as I reckon we will have two or three new faces by the game.

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Good read-excellent preview.

We have to keep the momentum Villa Park gave us in terms of performance quality. Obviously Zura for Samba but I think Ooijer and Zura should do an excellent job. I suspect Benni will return for Derbyshire- we will probably need the extra guile.

Another big test against a very good Everton side who may well have Yakubu back as Nigeria get knocked out on Tuesday don't they? Hopefully Everton will be feeling the after-affects of the Spuds game on Wednesday. We could just shade this 2-1 but I make a 1-1 draw the likeliest outcome.

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Excellent preview.

Everton will not arrive at Ewood Park bearing gifts, in fact as usual they will look to steal 3 points and more likely a few cars from outside the ground :unsure:

I have watched their last few games on tv and will no doubt expect them to play 4-5-1 with Johnson the lone man up front. This is where the problem lies as he has pace to burn whilst we will see Ooijer and Zurab in the central positions, neither fast and neither capable of keeping up with him.

Rovers will have to combat both Arteta and Cahill, ones a spanish diver the other an aussie whinger BUT both can score quality goals.

Buoyed on by 7500 fans, Everton will come to play like they did at Wigan, a bit under th cosh then two strikes and sit back.

A good solid atmosphere sees the 4th place contenders play off finish 1-1.

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I think we will win this.

my memories of this fixture are flitty's debut, obviously the 2-1 win in 1995 and the 4-1 stuffing in the fa cup last season where pedersen scored a belter of a free kick!

2-0 to Rovers. Even with a shaky defence Ive got a good feeling about this!

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This is a great game for MGP to get his season going, why, because he'll be up against a weaker player in Hibbert. Just hope Morten makes an impact.

Should also be another good game again for Dunny and Steven Reid, Lee Carsley never had any pace but he'll be supported by two others should be a great game for our wide players.

I hope i dont witness thirty minutes or so of quality football with no goals to show for it only to see Everton go and score.

Really looking forward to this one, especially after the dire games we've had to watch at home recently, this, i think, will be totally different from the previous few due to the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.

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I think we will win this.

my memories of this fixture are flitty's debut, obviously the 2-1 win in 1995 and the 4-1 stuffing in the fa cup last season where pedersen scored a belter of a free kick!

I remember that debut! He got sent off for some altercation with Ferguson after about two minutes :wacko:

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I think the key here will be for our midfield to make it tough for theirs to thread any through balls to Johnson, as well as not giving Arteta space. Which I suppose is largely the same thing! With the exception of through balls the lack of pace in our central defense won't be an issue. And of course, marking Cahill at set pieces... which seems to be an area in which we have problems, so I can certainly see him scoring.

I think we'll see another draw here, probably 1-1. Cahill for them, an unusual scorer for us; Reid or Zurab.

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Brilliant preview Hasta - no idea what the score will be, could go either way. Really looking forward to this one though. Should be a healthy crowd and a good atmosphere. :brfc:

Well actually, I'll still be recuperating following a prostate op, but I suppose healthy is OK....... :rolleyes:

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Great Preview!

Looking forward to this, everton will sell out, I have quite a few mates who are toffee fans and they all have their feet firmly on the deck and I rate Moyes.

28-29k attendance and a good atmosphere and we should squeak a win..

How about scoring first for a change @ home, that'll be a novelty, Reidy to bag, Pederson to put in a performance.

We'll have to turn up for more than 1/2 of the game to beat these guys though.

See you their!

:rover:

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Good preview.

There is no chance in hell we will lose at home to Everton and i see a good 2-0 win with Santa and McCarthy getting the goals. I have only seen one win when over in England and that was Newcastle away, Gally and his hand doing the magic. So after six home draws it would be nice with a win.

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Potential selection problems looming for both teams.

Emerton (BRFC) and Cahill (EFC) have been selected to play for Oz versus Qatar and it would appear that they are to invoke the dreaded country v club rule which would mean both miss the game.

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