Everton ready for mission impossible

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The Independent Online

You have to go back 20 seasons for the last time a 5-1 first-leg deficit in Europe proved no barrier to progress but Everton, who find themselves in such a predicament at Goodison Park tonight, will draw on inspiration provided by their neighbours only four months ago when they embark upon their own mission impossible against Dynamo Bucharest.

Revisiting Liverpool's European Cup triumph in Istanbul is a traumatic exercise for any Evertonian, yet desperate times call for desperate measures . With the side bottom of the Premiership and on the brink of watching last season's endeavour disappear with defeats at the first stage of both the Champions' League and the Uefa Cup, encouragement must be found from somewhere, even in memories of their rivals' comeback against Milan in Turkey.

David Moyes' team require a minimum of four goals to reach the Uefa Cup group stage and with only four scored in nine matches this season, Everton, who have lost every home fixture this campaign, appear in no shape to deliver the most stunning European result in their history.

"Our task is one of the toughest you could have, and it's a big ask," admitted the Everton manager yesterday. "Liverpool got three goals in six minutes against Milan and we need four in 90 minutes. If we can get an early goal it would be ideal. In a lot of ways, I think the players believe they have a chance of doing it. We've not been able to get many goals this season, but if we can get a couple then it would put them under pressure."

His captain, Scottish international David Weir, who also has the task of shoring up a porous defence against a clinical Bucharest team, said: "They are a good side and for us to pull it off would be a major achievement. But funny things can happen, and the fact teams have done it before will give us confidence. We can definitely take inspiration from what Liverpool did. It was a massive achievement and it shows what can be done."

Everton's £6.5m striker, James Beattie, will return, although only on the substitutes' bench as he recovers from a toe injury. Otherwise, Moyes' injury problems show no sign of abating, with former Spurs man Simon Davies twisting his ankle in training and midfielder Lee Carsley, a major influence on Everton's fourth-place finish last season, being told he may need an operation on the cruciate ligament injury he sustained last season.

Real Madrid were the last team to deliver the result being asked of Everton tonight. In the 1985-86 Uefa Cup, they suffered a 5-1 reverse against Borussia Mönchengladbach only to win the return leg 4-0 - and Madrid went on to win the competition. Inspiration abounds.

Everton (probable, 4-4-2): Martyn; Neville, Yobo, Weir, Valente; McFadden, Cahill, Arteta, Kilbane; Bent, Ferguson.

Dynamo Bucharest (probable, 4-4-2): Gaev; Goian, Tamas, Moti, Pulhac; Petre, Margaritescu, Plesan, Grigorie; Zicu, Niculescu.

Referee: L Duhamel (France).

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