Moyes misses Owen and Kuyt in striker quest

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The Independent Football

"The Multi Faith Prayer Room" at Liverpool's John Lennon Airport was an appropriate setting for the revelations of the Everton manager, who will require divine intervention to sign either player and for the two-goal win that would unlock the riches of the Champions' League in Villarreal tonight.

Everton's task against the stylish Spaniards, who recorded a 2-1 win at Goodison Park a fortnight ago, is hindered by an injury list that contains this season's only goalscorers, James Beattie and Marcus Bent, who will both have late fitness tests at the El Madrigal Stadium. Should Everton fall at the final qualifying hurdle, however, Moyes will not be discouraged in his quest for an improvement on last season's fourth-place league finish.

Feyenoord and Owen have both rebuffed Moyes in his search for a premium goalscorer, with the latter holding out for a return to Liverpool rather than the club he supported as a boy, but a summer of transfer misses, including Craig Bellamy, Scott Parker and Emre, has not dimmed the Goodison Park club's intent.

"We offered £10m for Dirk Kuyt at Feyenoord on 1 August, so people who say we haven't been competing for players are wrong. I just do my business quietly rather than in public," said Moyes yesterday.

"Feyenoord came back and said they wanted €18m for him, so that tells you where that one is. We offered nearly that much for another big name striker as well. People have got to accept that's the case. People are saying the board haven't been backing me, but we've been out competing and trying for new players all summer.

"We've also tried for Michael Owen. He was very kind and his representatives were very kind too and said maybe it wasn't the right move at this time. People know Michael Owen was an Everton supporter as a boy and, in time, something may happen. We would love to have Michael Owen here and we would offer the money required to take him here. We've been asking the questions for a lot longer than most people think."

Everton's offer to Owen remains open in the hope that his anticipated move to the other side of Stanley Park does not materialise and Moyes, who has spent £20.7m since January, is confident of further additions. He added: "There will be some more coming in before the transfer window [closes], definitely. For the last 10 years we haven't been able to compete for these kind of players, so rather than criticising us, people should be praising Everton for attempting to buy these prestigious players."

Moyes is homing in on one of those new faces, with the Roma forward Matteo Ferrari on the verge of signing on a season-long loan.

It will take, Moyes concedes, a greater feat than anything he or his players achieved last season for Everton to overcome Villarreal and reach the Champions' League group phase for the first time.

"It would be our biggest achievement if we were to get through this," he admitted. "But I'm one of those people who says that our biggest achievement is always round the corner. It would be better than finishing fourth last season because we are the underdogs and we are coming from behind against a team who finished third in La Liga behind Barcelona and Real Madrid.

"I think it's as big a game as any of my players have been involved in. This is a taste of what's to come here at Everton. I'm sure Everton will be back in Europe more often in the coming years, competing to be in the Champions' League."

Everton officials, have confirmed a clause relating to Alan Stubbs' cancer was withdrawn from their final contract offer to the player on the basis of their own medical advice.

Villarreal (probable, 4-4-2): Barbosa; G Rodriguez, Arruabarrena, J Rodriguez, Da Silva; Sorin, Alavarez, Riquelme, Josico; Forlan, Figueroa.

Everton (probable, 4-4-1-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Neville; Davies, Cahill, Arteta, Kilbane; Osman; Ferguson.

Referee: P Collina (It)