BATE Borisov v Everton, Europa League, October 1, 2009
The start of the season proved rocky for the Toffees, particularly after manager David Moyes was strong-armed into selling Joleon Lescott to Middle Eastlands, yet after four straight wins and four successive clean sheets the blue half of Merseyside is now rocking.
The protracted and painstaking sale of Lescott had one instant upshot for Everton as all of a sudden manager Moyes had money in the bank to bring in new faces. The only question mark was whether Moyes had enough time to put his money to work before the transfer window closed, but the wily Scot has answered his critics as his new signings appear to have gelled instantly to form a well-oiled unit.
The signing of Slyvain Distin (12/1 to score) from Portsmouth already looks a wise piece of business from Moyes. The Frenchman, an experienced Premier League performer, has seamlessly slotted into the gap left by Lescott, also chipping in with one goal in his first five Everton appearances. And Moyes did not stop their, bringing in versatile Dutch defender Johnny Heitinga from Atletico Madrid while former West Ham man Lucas Neill has also joined at Goodison on a free transfer. (Everton are 5/6 to keep a clean sheet.)
A solid rearguard is backed up by a combative and creative midfield, although there have been some setbacks in recent weeks.
Captain Phil Neville has been sidelined since tearing the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the defeat at Fulham in September while, during last Saturday’s win at Portsmouth, Steven Pienaar picked up a knee injury with will keep the South African on the treatment table for several frustrating weeks. Mikel Arteta also remains a long-term absentee from the first team.
But Moyes is far from downbeat as he is still able to call on a rich blend of experience, talent and youthful exuberance across the middle of the park. Tim Cahill (7/5 to score & Everton win), Marouane Fellaini (16/1 to score a brace) and Leon Osman are now all seasoned Premier League stalwarts, while whippersnapper Jack Rodwell looks to have all the talent to be a future England star. And then there is the unknown quantity, new Russian winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (10/3 to score), who looked a top signing in the last Europa League match against AEK Athens.
Up-front life is also looking rosy for the Toffees as, save for Victor Anichebe, Moyes is able to pick any of Jo, Ayegbeni Yakubu (13/8 for eithe Jo or Yakubu to score first), Louis Saha and even youngster Dan Gosling to lead the line.
Belarussian outfit BATE Borisov are representative of one of the team’s UEFA president Michel Platini would love to see more involved in the latter stages of the European Cup compeitions.
BATE reached the group stages of the Champions League last term, drawing 2-2 with Juventus and only narrowly being beaten by Real Madrid and Zenit St Petersburg. This year BATE suffered a third round exit though at the hands of Benfica, going down 2-nil to the Portuguese powerhouse.
But BATE should be written off at Everton’s peril. Leading their league by 10 points after having won 16 of their 20 domestic games this season, with only two defeats in that time, BATE have won their last three consecutive matches and will be full of confidence for Everton’s arrival.
Players to look out for on the Belorussian’s side include 23-year-old midfielder Sergei Krivets (10/1 to score last), who is having an incredible season in front of goal netting 13 times already this campaign. Also making waves is 19-year-old striker Maksim Skavysh (11/4 to score) who has found the back of the net 11 times this season and is known for being a quick and skillful forward.
101predicts: BATE Borisov 1 – Everton 1 (6/1)
Full match odds here.