Benitez Weighing Up Big QPR Decisions

Rafa Benitez wants Everton to recapture the “character and attitude” that were hallmarks of a profitable start to the campaign when they go to QPR seeking Carabao Cup progress on Tuesday.

The Blues were unbeaten in their opening five games across the competitions but suffered a first loss following a flurry of second-half Aston Villa goals at the weekend.

Manager Benitez will choose from the same pool of players – including striker Salomon Rondon after a first start against Villa – for the cup tie in London and admits selection will represent a tricky juggling act.

The Spaniard’s desire to throw everything possible at booking a fourth-round spot has to be measured against both a restrictive injury list and the short turnaround before Saturday's Premier League meeting with Norwich City.

“We had a lot of positives this month,” Benitez told evertontv.

“You can see the reaction of the team when they were losing in games [Everton beat Southampton and Burnley after trailing].

“And with 10 players against Huddersfield [in round two], we did really well.

“The team has shown character and a very good attitude and I am happy with that.

“Now, we have to take all the positives from the past games and training sessions... and try to be sure we are ready for this one.

“You can replace players in some positions and it is fine.

“In other positions, we are short of some people and it is a big risk if you lose one of these players you cannot replace.

“But, at the same time, you have to put a strong team on the pitch to compete and win.

“You don’t have the time to recover properly and you have an important game [Norwich] coming soon.

“But, in the meantime, you have to be sure you make the right decisions.”

Rafa Benitez
The team has shown character and a very good attitude. Now, we have to take all the positives from the past games and training sessions... and try to be sure we are ready for this one.

Rondon, who played 63 minutes on Saturday, is ready for a second straight start, if required, but fellow striker Ellis Simms remains short of match fitness following a recent return from injury.

There are likely to be playing chances for others on the periphery so far this term.

And it is a matter of satisfaction for Benitez that those waiting for opportunities have unfailingly bought into what he's asked from them on the training field.

“All of them want to impress and do well,” said Benitez.

“They have to impress not just the manager, they have to impress the fans. They are professionals and want to show they can play.

“I could see today [Monday] in the training session, they were focused and keen to do what we wanted.

“[With Rondon], our fans are clever and understand the situation, we needed to bring a player with experience in the Premier League and who could be a back-up.

“He didn’t play for four months, so we were not expecting he could play a full game so quickly.

“He has recovered well and will be ready.

“But the problem is, when a player is not fully fit, every time you put him on the pitch, you have to see how much he needs to recover.

“He is positive and training well, so I expect he can give us what we are expecting from him.”

Centre-forward Simms only recently returned to training after hurting a groin towards the end of a successful loan at Blackpool last term.

Benitez, then, is still familiarising himself with the player, who made a terrific early impression on the boss when putting his hand-up to travel to Aston Villa.

“We lost Richarlison and Coleman during the training session the day before,” said Benitez.

"I went to talk to Marcel [Brands, Director of Football] about the situation and Simms, who’d had a couple of training sessions, was there.

“I said, ‘Are you happy to go, are you ready?’

“He said: ‘Yeah, yeah, I am ready’.

“So, after some months injured, we had to take him.

Rafa Benitez
I was pleased, because after some months he [Simms] had the desire and was convinced he could help the team.

“The lad was really happy and excited.

“But we knew he was not ready and is still not ready.

“I was pleased, because after some months he had the desire and was convinced he could help the team.

“I saw some videos of him and in the training sessions I saw him. He is a big lad and we were working on his movements a little bit.

"He can score goals and, hopefully, if he can improve his movement, you never know, he is an option for us.

“If we recover the others, he needs time to play, but I am happy with his attitude.”

Tickets for the away section of Championship club QPR'S Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium inevitably sold out in a hurry.

And Evertonians are increasingly arriving at games knowing what to expect from their team in terms of commitment and a clear and consistent method of playing.

“We know what we were and what we have done,” added Benitez.

“We are doing really well but we knew sooner or later we would have a defeat and needed to be sure everybody understood it is part of the game.

“How you react is key for the future.

“The fans at the last home game [Burnley], for example, were quite positive when the team was not playing well.

“They know this team has the right attitude and right reaction, so they were expecting it.

“It has to be the same for the future.

“Always, I say, the fans at home are amazing.

“But the fans away are even better.

“It is difficult to travel during the week, you have to go and expect your team will do well.

“If not, they continue going to every game away.

“It is amazing the support we have, hopefully they can carry on and we can send them back with smiles on their faces.”