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Michael Taylor 7th Mar 2009 - 17:59

Arteta absence could lead to bore draw

David Moyes and Phil Jagielka took February's Manager and Player of the Month awards but, without the injured Mikel Arteta, Everton's season could be in danger of coming off the rails.

Arteta, Everton's great creator, suffered a season ending knee ligament injury a couple of weeks ago, joining fellow goal threats Yakubu and Anichebe on the injury list, and the effect is already being felt by the unlucky Toffees.

A fortunate 2-0 home win against West Brom followed up by a miserable 0-0 draw away at Blackburn could be a sign of what is to come as Moyes' solid squad now lacks the penetration that only someone of Arteta's calibre can bring.

It all means Everton are far easier to shut down and when Middlesbrough travel to Goodison Park for Sunday's FA Cup quarter final manager Gareth Southgate is sure to brief his team on how to stifle the home favourites - giving the 23/10 about the draw seem very possible.

Southgate is likely to call on Gary O'Neil and Julio Arca to keep things tight in the middle while David Wheater and Emanuel Pogatetz will be charged with keeping Tim Cahill and Louis Saha under wraps.

And if Everton churn out the direct tactics that resulted in the stalemate at Ewood Park in midweek then Boro's centre back pairing could be in for a relatively easy 90 minutes.

Unfortunately though, Middlesbrough themselves don't appear to have enough to progress through to a Wembley semi final at the first attempt but they are sure to improve from their 4-0 midweek hammering at Tottenham.

Afonso Alves needs a big performance but he has done little to suggest Jagielka and Joleon Lescott are in for a tough time since his big money move from Heereveen and should be avoided at 9/1 to score the first goal of the game.

In fact I personally would be avoiding any scorer and plumping for the 15/2 about a 0-0 draw - a result Everton fans have suffered in two of their past three games.

It is hard to see where the action will come from as Everton are so defensively strong starting with Tim Howard in goal right through to Cahill, who will no doubt be used as a striker once again by Moyes.

And while Boro do have good attacking talent in the shape of Stewart Downing and Sanli Tuncay, Southgate would be more than content with a replay on home turf, especially after dispatching West Ham in the last round with a Riverside replay.

With this is mind the 9/5 about less than two total match goals could prove to be a banker and the 10/3 about Middlesbrough keeping a clean sheet looks good value and could provide some interest in what is shaping up to be a disappointing game.

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