After recovering from what is becoming their annual slow start to the season, Everton travel to Belarus tonight to face BATE Borisov looking for a fifth consecutive win and a sixth victory in seven matches in all competitions.
Last weekend's 1-0 win at Portsmouth was the Toffees' fourth clean sheet in four games and manager David Moyes is relishing the chance to test his under-strength side against the Belarus champions in the Europa League Group I encounter.
"While it is disappointing we don't have the pick of all our players, that doesn't make our involvement any less enjoyable," Moyes said. "It [European qualification] is something that we as a club always wanted. Finishing fifth last season was a great achievement, so I am really looking forward to this match."
Nine regular squad members failed to make the 1,200 mile trip, midfielder Steven Pienaar [knee] and Jack Rodwell [flu] the latest additions to an injury list including long-term absentees Phil Jagielka, Mikel Arteta and Phil Neville.
Top scorer Louis Saha is suspended following his dismissal in the opening group match against AEK Athens, while Johnny Heitinga and Lucas Neill are ineligible.
Youngsters Dan Gosling, Jose Baxter and James Wallace are included in the squad as the Toffees attempt to win away in Europe for the first time in four matches.
The hosts have won their national league for the last three seasons and sit 10 points clear at the top with five games left following Saturday's 3-1 victory at Granit. Tonight's visit of Everton is the first of any English club to the Belarusians.
Fulham v Basle
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson has denied suggestions the Europa League is acting as a distraction for his players ahead of tonight's visit of Basle. Hodgson played a weakened side for the 1-1 draw at CSKA Sofia last month before losing 2-1 at Wolves three days later and the Craven Cottage side have failed to win any of the three weekend matches following midweek European games. West Ham welcome Fulham to Upton Park this weekend.
"We certainly don't see Europe as a distraction, we regard it as an interesting adventure," Hodgson said. "If you don't want distractions then you should refuse the offer to qualify for Europe. There was never any question of us doing that. We tried to finish as high as we could in the Premier League last season."
Fulham have appealed to Uefa to allow them to register goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbuhler for tonight's match against his former side after David Stockdale suffered a knee injury in training. First-choice Mark Schwarzer remains the club's only other fit goalkeeper.
"We've found it difficult to register Zuberbuhler because of the restrictions," Hodgson continued. "You have to have so many home-grown players and we don't have any. Twenty-five players for most teams becomes 20 for us because of that. I am hoping he'll be on the list for tomorrow otherwise we'll be in serious trouble. I'm confident that our wish to exchange Stockdale's name for Zuberbuhler will be OK. Normally you're allowed to make the change with 24 hours notice."
Midfielders Damien Duff, Simon Davies and Dickson Etuhu, along with defender Brede Hangeland, all miss tonight's match against Thorsten Fink's side through injury.
Celtic v Rapid Vienna
The Celtic manager Tony Mowbray welcomes midfielder Aiden McGeady back for the Group C visit of Rapid Vienna after the Republic of Ireland international was rested for Saturday's win at St Mirren with an ankle injury.
Midfielder Paddy McCourt and defender Andreas Hinkel face late fitness tests as the Bhoys look to recover from last month's defeat to Hapoel Tel Aviv and gain their first points in Group C, although Mowbray is not underestimating the Austrian side. "It will be a massive challenge," the Scot said. "Anyone who can beat Hamburg is going to be a good side, they wouldn't be in the competition otherwise.
"We will show them the respect that they deserve, they are strong in the counter attack and have good players in good areas of the pitch. They are going to be a threat and it's something we have to be aware of."
"It's a chance to get three points and we will try to the best of our abilities," added Stephen McManus.Reuse content