David Moyes admits he is gambling with Everton's European future by axing England defender Joleon Lescott from tonight's clash with Sigma Olomouc at Goodison Park.
The Everton chief has dropped Lescott for his "bad attitude" as the transfer saga with Manchester City rumbles on.
But that decision leaves Moyes seriously short of central defenders, with Phil Jagielka still out injured.
Moyes will have to play captain Phil Neville or youngster Jack Rodwell - both midfielders - alongside Joseph Yobo in the heart of defence for the Europa League play-off first leg.
Moyes said: "Yes, this is a gamble. And it will be one of those two, Neville or Rodwell, who will play in defence."
But Moyes believes he had no choice to axe Lescott, believing he could risk further damage to squad morale following Saturday's 6-1 mauling by Arsenal.
Moyes said: "Joleon's attitude has not been right these past days, he has disappointed me and he has disappointed his team-mates. He is not in the right frame of mind."
But Moyes insisted he still does not want to sell the player, saying: "I hope this will all be sorted out, after the deadline."
This latest desperate move by Moyes could, many will think, pave the way for the England defender to join the Eastlands galaxy of superstars.
But Moyes is still defiant.
He said: "People can read what they like into this. But I have said all along I don't want to sell him. But it is a bit like Cristiano Ronaldo leaving Manchester United, there is always a price.
"At this moment no club has made us an offer for the player that we want to accept."
The Lescott situation has come to a head in the wake of Everton's shattering defeat by Arsenal, when Moyes was critical of defensive lapses, although he did not point the finger at Lescott.
But it is clear that the atmosphere at the Finch Farm training complex has worsened since then.
Moyes said: "I made a decision today and due to Joleon's attitude, I felt it would be better if he wasn't included in the squad. He does not seem to be in the right frame of mind.
"He wasn't(right) before Saturday's game and he told me that. But I took the risk and chose to play him. But now the time is right to leave him alone until things are sorted, and hopefully that will be after the deadline.
"I find Joleon a really good boy to work with, a pleasure in fact. I couldn't say enough good things about him.
"But the boy has changed. It is not just me (who has noticed) but the players who are working with him have noticed it as well.
"But the door is open for Joleon. We don't want him to go, I have said that all along, unless we get an offer that I think is right.
"But at the present time he is not in the squad and it is best that we get on without him."Reuse content