He went awol in Africa but the Yak's back in Bergen. And as Everton prepared for their Uefa Cup last-32 match against SK Brann tonight, David Moyes said he expects payback from Ayegbeni Yakubu for his recent sins.
The Nigerian striker was three days late returning to his club last week from the African Nations Cup, and was dropped for Saturday's win against Reading. He provided no convincing explanation and now he will be expected to make amends as, it seems likely, he will start up front alone. "Yak's back in and it's done with now, that episode has ended," Moyes said. "Let's just hope he feels he has a point to prove because he let us down."
Moyes will be without Mikel Arteta, who has an ankle injury. When Everton flew out of Liverpool yesterday, so did Arteta – to Spain for treatment. "Mikel is a really big miss for us," Moyes said, but was bullish enough to add, "we have the squad to win the Uefa Cup and qualify for the Champions League."
Everton are fourth in the Premier League but this competition is their last hope of silverware. "If you actually want to achieve anything [in terms of trophies], these games are really important," Moyes said.
Brann qualified for this season's Uefa Cup by coming second behind Rosenborg in the 2006 Norwegian title race. They won the 2007 title, which on a line of form via Rosenborg in the Champions League makes them Chelsea's equals on a good day.
But they have not played a domestic fixture since their final game in early November. Moyes said that would not necessarily help his side. "We've seen as much of them as we can on DVD, and my chief scout has got a tan from going to their training camp in La Manga [this past fortnight]," he said. "They seem to have quite a British approach."
The most familiar face in the Brann ranks is Eirik Bakke – a former Champions League semi-finalist with Leeds – who was named yesterday as captain for 2008. "I needed a captain who can go to war on the field and that's what I have with Eirik," said Brann's coach, Mons Ivar Mjelde.
Moyes also identified Brann's prolific striker, Thorstein Helstad, as a danger, while their goalkeeper, Hakon Opdal, has been voted the best in his country for the past two seasons.
History and logic still suggest Everton should take control of a tie that will hand the winners a last-16 game against either Fiorentina or Rosenborg. They have won all their away games in the Uefa Cup and won their group-stage section with a 100 per cent record. Brann won just one game, against Dinamo Zagreb, and squeaked through in third place.
SK Brann: (4-4-2): Opdal; Dahl, Bjarnason, Sigurdsson, Hanstveit; Solli, El Fakiri, Bakke, Moen; Karadas, Helstad.
Everton (4-5-1 probable): Howard; Hibbert, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Osman, Neville, Cahill, Carsley, Baines; Yakubu.
Referee: Anton Genov (Bulgaria).Reuse content