Good afternoon! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for today's match between Blackburn Rovers
and Everton. Let's get straight down to business.
We will start by looking at our hosts tonight, and it is fair to say that Blackburn find themselves in a much worse state than when they last played Everton. Rovers almost succumbed to back-to-back relegations last season, just doing enough to keep themselves in the Championship having been demoted from the Premier League the year before.
Of course, they haven't been helped by the managerial turmoil or the ownership crisis that surrounds their club. Last season they went through Steve Kean, Henning Berg and Michael Appleton before finally deciding to stick with the man who had been caretaker manager between all of those reigns - Gary Bowyer
There does appear to be a little more stability around the club now, and fans are optimistic ahead of the new season. However, they haven't exactly swept all before them in their pre-season campaign so far. They began with a 1-1 draw against Wrexham before back-to-back 1-0 wins over Portimonense and Crewe respectively.
They followed this up with a 2-2 draw away to Rochdale before their last outing saw them draw 1-1 with Preston North End. Everton represent by far their biggest test in the pre-season calender thus far, and a win today would give them plenty of confidence going into the Championship curtain-raiser against Derby County on August 4.
As for Everton, they haven't exactly shone under new manager Roberto Martinez yet either. They began with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Austria Vienna before bouncing back with a 4-1 win over lowly Accrington Stanley.
Today is their last match before they jet off to San Francisco to take part in the International Champions Cup. Their opening game of that tournament sees them take on the mighty Juventus on August 1.
TEAM NEWS: The team news is in from both camps, and the headline news is that new boy Arouna Kone starts up front for Everton. Martinez has named a strong lineup, and I wouldn't be surprised to see most of today's starting XI play in their opening game of the Premier League season. Full team news coming right up...
BLACKBURN STARTING XI: Kean; Kane, Dann, Hanley, Kilgallon; Taylor, Lowe, Marrow, King, Judge; Rhodes.
EVERTON STARTING XI: Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Oviedo; Gibson, Fellaini, Mirallas, Barkley, Pienaar; Kone
Martinez had a fully fit squad to choose from apart from loanee attacker Deulofeu. The Barcelona youngster has only just returned from his extended break due to his involvement in the Under-20 World Cup, and he is unlikely to play any part until the International Champions Cup.
A quick word on Deulofeu, though. Martinez has bagged himself a real gem and, although he is only on loan, he could do wonders for Everton this season. Word from Barcelona's youth academy is that he has the most potential to come out of there since a certain Lionel Messi. It is interesting that Barca have chosen to loan him out as I can't think of anywhere better in world football to learn your trade than Barcelona, but Everton will gleefully accept a very talented player.
As for Blackburn, their dangerman this afternoon will be Jordan Rhodes. The striker is lethal in front of goal and, despite Blackburn not having the best of seasons, he managed to net 28 times in 48 games during the last campaign.
Everton's main threats are well documented, with Fellaini, Mirallas and Pienaar more than capable of backing up Arouna Kone with goals. Blackburn will have their work cut out keeping that quartet quiet today.
PREDICTION: We're five minutes from kickoff at Ewood Park, which means that it is time for the prediction! Blackburn have struggled during pre-season so far and they haven't come up against a team anywhere near as good as Everton. The Toffees are still relatively early in their pre-season campaign, but they still should have enough to win this one. I'll go for 2-0 to Everton.
The away end is packed out for Everton tonight and, amazingly, they far outnumber the Blackburn fans in this ground. It is a pretty poor showing from the home supporters to be honest, Bowyer will be hoping that attendances pick up when the season gets underway.
Baines, by the way, is not in action today because he picked up a slight knock and Martinez doesn't want to risk him. Nothing to do with any transfer speculation, we're told.
Right, we're just about ready to get underway here at Ewood Park.
KICKOFF: The home side kick us off, can they take a Premier League scalp today?
Bright start from Blackburn as they look to press high up the pitch, putting the Everton defence under big pressure early on. No chances to report just yet, however.
Kone gets his first touch in an Everton shirt but his pass out wide is a little too heavy and the Toffees lose their momentum. The eventual cross is comfortably gathered by Kean.
CHANCE! Blackburn come close to breaking the deadlock early on as Barkley falls asleep from a corner, allowing Taylor to steal in front of him and header the ball just past the post.
SAVE! Barkley looks to make amends immediately by showing good feet around 25 yards from goal before firing a low shot towards the bottom corner that Kean does well to push wide.
Everton are just knocking the ball about in midfield and defence now as they look for a way through Blackburn. The hosts are standing firm at the moment, however, and are working very hard to plug any holes that may appear.
Hanley does well defensively before lifting a long ball over the top for Rhodes to run on to. The pass is too heavy, allowing Howard to come and clear, but Distin and Jagielka will have to keep an eye on Rhodes's runs behind.
Promising play by Everton as Pienaar lifts a delicate ball over the defence to Oviedo, who takes it down well before lifting his shot just wide. The linesman has his flag up, but that is the first time that the visitors have looked like breaching the Blackburn defence.
Barkley gets on the end of a corner but Taylor does enough to put him off and the Everton midfielder nods it well wide.
We're just waiting for this game to ignite at the moment. Apart from Taylor's early header, we haven't really had a decent chance yet. You can certainly tell that it is a pre-season match.
Kone has not had a chance to shine on his debut so far. He hasn't been given any service yet and the Blackburn defence are doing well to keep him quiet.
Kone shows good strength to hold off a challenge, allowing Mirallas to run through, but the ref blows and brings it back for a foul. That was quite a harsh decision I think, Kone can feel hard done by.
The match just seems very flat at the moment. There isn't much atmosphere being created in the stands and the players aren't exactly giving them anything to shout about either.
GOAL! Blackburn 0-1 Everton (Grant Hanley og)
That is exactly what this game needed. Barkley receives the ball on the edge of the area and turns his marker inside out before poking a shot towards the bottom corner. Kean is beaten, but the shot is cleared off the line. It only goes as far as Mirallas, whose curling effort towards the bottom corner takes a massive deflection off Hanley which takes it past the keeper. The stadium announcer gives it to Mirallas, but that has to go down as an own goal.
SAVE! Everton are posing more of an attacking threat now. They win a free kick in a promising position and Mirallas tries to catch the keeper out by going around the wall rather than over it. Kean is alert to the danger, however, and tips it wide.
Barkley bursts past a couple of defenders again before dragging a low shot towards the far corner, but this time it is cleared by a defender before Kean can save it. Barkley has looked sharp in and around the Blackburn box so far.
The hosts have not threatened at all from open play so far. Every time the ball goes anywhere near Rhodes he is surrounded by three blue shirts and has very little support, giving him no chance to create anything.
Everton do seem to be passing the ball about a lot more under Martinez than they did under Moyes. The players have had to adapt to a different style of play during this pre-season, and so far they seem to be fairly comfortable with it.
Everton have a free kick in a good position but Mirallas opts to pull off a training routine rather than crossing it in. He exchanges a one-two with Barkley to send him into a very advanced position, but his subsequent cross can only find the side netting. That was a waste of a good position.
Everton have another free kick in a good position, this time a little more central. Mirallas goes for goal on this occasion, but his effort curls harmlessly wide. It was never troubling Kean's goal.
That is probably the most Blackburn have threatened from open play so far. A cross is headed back into the danger area by Taylor and it falls to King, but his first-time volley goes a long way over the bar. It was a half-chance at best for the hosts.
We're five minutes from half time here and to be honest it hasn't been the most enthralling of matches so far. An own goal is all that separates the sides and, other than that, it hasn't looked like we will see another goal yet.
Judge floats a high free kick into the box that Dann rises highest to meet. He is under lots of pressure, though, and can only tamely put it a long way wide.
Kone picks the ball up on the edge of the box and makes space to shoot, but his effort is dragged wide of the near post.
OFF THE BAR! That is a much better chance for Kone, and he is unlucky not to have opened his Everton account there. One long ball over the top beats the whole Blackburn defence and Kone races on to it before poking an effort goalwards. His strike crashes off the crossbar before rebounding back off the keeper's head and out for a corner.
HALF TIME: Blackburn 0-1 Everton
No added time at the end of the half, then, and Everton go into the break with a narrow lead over their hosts. It could have been even better for the Toffees with that last chance from Kone, but they will be content enough with the one-goal lead they have courtesy of Grant Hanley
's own goal.
Blackburn have shown no signs of threatening Everton's lead, so that 1-0 advantage looks more comfortable than it usually would. The Toffees took a while to get going, but they began to create more after the goal and will be confident of adding to their tally in the second half.
Martinez has already stamped his style on this side, that is clear to see. They are passing the ball freely and seem very reluctant to hoof it long. Moyes was a magnificent servant to Everton, but some fans were desperate for a change of style towards the end of his reign and, with Martinez, they have got exactly that.
While one manager will be happy with what he has seen so far, the other won't be. Blackburn have defended well enough, but they have offered nothing in the shape of an attacking threat. It has been a very lacklustre performance and it is hard to see where any creativity is going to come from.
I expect a plethora of changes either at half time or throughout the second half. Subs usually disrupt the flow of a game but, to be honest, there hasn't been much of a flow to disrupt in this one so hopefully one of the new faces can bring a spark of inspiration.
Everton are filtering back on to the field now, a few minutes before their opponents. It may only be a pre-season match, but the Blackburn players could probably do with a bit of the hairdryer treatment during the break to get them going.
Indeed, there are plenty of changes to Everton. Seven in all. Kone is one of those who makes way on his debut.
KICKOFF: The much-changed Everton team get us back underway in this second half.
Early pinball inside the Blackburn box as an Osman pass to Naismith bounces back out to the Everton midfielder. His shot is then deflected into the path of Oviedo, whose cross is put behind for a corner.
SHOT! These subs are playing some nice football in the early stages of this half. Osman and Jelavic are involved as the ball eventually breaks to Naismith on the edge of the box. He goes for goal first time with his left foot, smashing a very powerful effort well over the bar.
Gibson picks up the ball around 35 yards from goal and we know he can hit them from range. This one won't go on his highlight reel, however, as he drags it along the floor and a long way wide.
The subs have certainly brought about an injection of pace into this game, and it is Osman who seems to be at the centre of it all.
GOAL! Blackburn 0-2 Everton (Nikica Jelavic)
That goal has been coming since the break, it must be said. It is a relatively simple goal for Everton as Jelavic sneaks in between two defenders to meet a corner before planting his header into the bottom corner. Good header, and that will do his confidence the world of good after a disappointing season last time.
Just before that goal Naismith had a chance to get his own name on the scoresheet. Coleman raced down the right flank and pulled the ball back to the Scot, but his strike was deflected out for the corner that ultimately provided Everton with their second goal.
Pienaar is left in space around 30 yards from goal, and he doesn't need a second invitation to shoot from range. He doesn't quite catch hold of this one, however, and it is easy for Kean.
CHANCE! Big chance for Jelavic to double his personal tally, but the ball just bobbled up at the wrong moment. Pienaar poked a good ball through to the Croat, who holds off a challenge from Hanley before trying to lift it over Kean. His lob is just too high, however, and comes down on to the roof of the net.
Osman weaves his way in and out of a couple of challenges, showing fine balance on his way through to the edge of the box. He goes for goal with his left foot, but it is a very tame effort that Kean has no problem collecting.
BLACKBURN SUBS: Bowyer makes a double change for Blackburn, bringing on Mauro Formica and Ruben Rochina for Joshua King and Chris Taylor.
It has been all Everton in this second half. Blackburn barely threatened at all in the first 45 minutes but they have looked even less like scoring since the break. It is one-way traffic, and Blackburn are struggling to even get possession inside the Everton half.
Rhodes must be the most frustrated player on the park at the moment. He knows that he can score goals given the chances, but he has not been given a glimmer of hope this afternoon. The Everton defence has dealt with him and the rest of Blackburn attack very comfortably.
CHANCE! Jelavic is getting into all the right areas, but he can't add to that goal at the moment. Coleman gets past Judge far too easily and advances into the area before clipping a cross towards the front post. Jelavic does well to get there ahead of two defenders, but he can't get enough on his header and Kean makes the save.
Blackburn have their best opening of the match as a cross flashes right along the face of goal. No Blackburn man can get anything on it, however, and Distin carries it clear.
BLACKBURN SUBS: Another double change for Blackburn as Judge and a frustrated Rhodes make way for Diogo Rosado and Leon Best.
SHOT! Jason Lowe decides to go for goal from range and it isn't a bad effort at all. It never looks like going in, but the replays show that it flashed only a yard or so wide of the angle.
GOAL! Blackburn 0-3 Everton (Nikica Jelavic)
Jelavic finally has his second goal! Osman slips a lovely pass inside the full-back for Coleman to race on to, and his cross takes a deflection which makes the ball fall to the Croat. His first effort is well saved but the ball spills out straight at the feet of Jelavic again, and this time he makes no mistake to make it 3-0.
Blackburn are almost gifted a consolation goal as Robles gets nowhere near a cross. Best rises to try to head in from close range, but Distin does enough to force the sub to miss the target.
BLACKBURN SUBS: The third double change of the day for Blackburn sees Hanley and Marrow be replaced by Morten Gamst Pedersen and John O'Sullivan.
Formica gives a silly free kick away in a dangerous position right on the edge of the box. It is on the corner of the area so they could cross this one rather than shoot...
...they do cross it and it causes havoc in the Blackburn box with Jelavic lurking for his hat-trick, but the hosts eventually scramble it clear after a good save from Kean.
Blackburn are getting a little more joy going forward in these late stages. Best picks up the ball on the right side of the box before slipping a clever ball into Rochina. The Spaniard takes a touch before shooting towards the near post, but Joel is equal to it.
GOAL! Blackburn 1-3 Everton (Scott Dann)
Everton have gone to sleep in these closing stages, and Scott Dann
takes full advantage. A corner from Pedersen leaves Joel flapping and Dann does well to squeeze his header in from a tight angle. It was poor marking and poor goalkeeping there, and they only have themselves to blame for not keeping a clean sheet.
EVERTON SUB: A late change by Everton sees Bryan Oviedo replaced by Luke Garbutt.
FULL TIME: Blackburn 1-3 Everton
No added time again at the end of the half, and Everton run out comfortable 3-1 winners. They were never really challenged during the match, with Blackburn's best spell coming at the end when Everton had become complacent.
The Toffees will be disappointed to have conceded that late goal, but on the whole they will be happy with their performance. Martinez has got his side playing free-flowing, passing football and that was clear to see, particularly in the second half. Nikica Jelavic
will be delighted to have scored twice, and he could have got even more. Everton fans will be happy to see him getting into the right positions after a poor season last time out.
Next up for Everton is a trip to the United States, where they will take part in the International Champions Cup alongside the likes of AC Milan, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Juventus, Real Madrid, Valencia and LA Galaxy. Their first - and potentially only - match will see them take on Juventus on July 31.
As for Blackburn, Gary Bowyer
won't read too much into this result but he will be concerned at the lack of creativity his side showed. Until the final 10 minutes or so, Everton's defence had nothing to worry about and Blackburn didn't look like scoring whatsoever. They were, of course, playing superior opposition, but they still look to have a tough season ahead of them in the Championship next year.
Speaking of the Championship, Blackburn return to competitive action against Derby on August 4, the start of the new season. This was their final pre-season match, so they will need to pick themselves up after such a lacklustre performance.
Right, that's all from me this afternoon. Thank you for joining Sports Mole
for today's match. It was Everton who came out on top with a comfortable 3-1 win over a toothless Blackburn side. I will leave you with Liam Apicella's match report
, and be sure to check the website for other live matches going on right now. From me, though, it's goodbye!