Everton v Benfica, Europa League, November 5, 2009
David Moyes will be happy to see the back of October. A win away at BATE Borisov on the first of the month was followed by a wretched run of form that produced just three Premier League points from four matches and also included a Carling Cup exit to Spurs and a 5-0 drubbing by Benfica just two weeks ago. (Benfica are 100/1 to win by the same result.)
Undoubtedly the Toffees have been hampered by a lengthy injury list and the three away games in just six days, protested with silence by David Moyes, puts the month in perspective.
Nevertheless, sitting 13th in the Premier League, having gained 12 points from 10 games and second in Group I in the Europa League, the stage is set for a stirring performance at Goodison Park.
Long-term injury absentees Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar, Phil Neville, Phil Jagielka and Mikel Arteta remain out and Tim Cahill (15/2 to score first) is also a doubt. These injury problems have meant Jack Rodwell (11/1 to score & Everton win) has taken an even greater role in the centre of midfield than expected this season and he has been one of the clear bright spots in 2009/2010.
Further forward Marouane Fellaini (7/2 to score) has suffered from â€œsecond season syndromeâ€ and Everton desperately need Aiyegbeni Yakubu (6/1 to score first) to show the goal scoring form he showed before his long term injury.
The mauling in Lisbon should focus minds in the Everton dressing room as it was the Toffeesâ€™ heaviest defeat in European competition. But both teams are unlikely to be much unchanged from those that appeared in Benficaâ€™s impressive 5-0 victory.
David Moyesâ€™ side were undone by a terrific performance from Angel Di Maria (33/1 to score a brace) down the left who showed why he has been linked with seemingly every major club in Europe. And Benfica proved just what undoubted attacking class they have throughout their side. Javier Saviola (13/2 to score first) and Oscar Cardozo (9/1 to score & Benfica win) can be prolific up front whilst midfielders Ramires, Javi Garcia and Pablo Aimar are capable of pulling the strings from deep.
The good news for Everton is that Benfica lost on Saturday to put an end to a four match winning run that had seen them score an incredible 20 goals. The 2-0 defeat at Braga was unexpected and leaves them three points adrift of Sporting Lisbon at the top of the Portuguese Liga.
Benfica are also notoriously poor travelers and have not claimed a victory in their past seven European away matches in a run of games dating back to December 2007. In their only other away match in the group, the Portuguese side lost 2-1 to BATE Borisov.
Everton will be desperate to get back to winning ways, especially as they face three successive away matches in the Premier League before the visit of troubled Liverpool. A full house at Goodison and a true European night could see Everton produce a famous win, although they will have to be wary of Benfica on the break.
101gg predicts: Everton 3 â€“ Benfica 1 (18/1)
Full match odds here.