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Rupert Wyman 24th Feb 2010 - 13:42

In-form Everton to go marching on in Europe

Everton travel to Portugal to face Sporting Lisbon in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie. The Toffees take a 2-1 lead with them and they will be full of confidence following their consecutive Premier League victories over Chelsea and Man Utd.

The way Everton played at the weekend against the league champions they would be a match for anyone as David Moyes' side are in resurgent mood as they make amends for a relative poor start to their season.

In Europe they suffered at the hands of Benfica in the group stage as the Portuguese side dealt out two hammerings. However, Sporting Lisbon are not in the same class as their fierce rivals as they sit a massive 20 points behind them in the weak Portuguese league.

Therefore one has to fancy Everton to qualify for the round of 16 and at odds of 1/2 this looks a more than fair price.

Despite expecting Everton to progress I am not too sure whether they will actually win in Portugal so the draw could be the way to go at 23/10.

Last week's late away goal in the first leg by Sporting certainly makes this tie more interesting and the Portuguese side can count themselves lucky that the tie isn't already beyond them as such was the Toffees' dominance at times.

The first leg is part of a winless run for Sporting that now stretches to seven following their draw at the weekend with strugglers Olhanense. They will have to put an end to this run if they are to knock Everton out though and also if they wish to maintain their proud record of having never lost a two-legged tie to English opposition.

The price of a Sporting win is 7/5 but I will be staying well clear of this as the contrasting form of both sides makes it hard to make a case for a home victory.

Everton will be without the suspended Sylvain Distin whose foul and subsequent red card in the first leg led to Miguel Veloso's penalty and the crucial away goal. The defender will be a miss for the Toffees as he and Johnny Heitinga kept the on-fire Wayne Rooney relatively quiet on Saturday.

However, further up the field the recent return of playmaker Mikel Arteta combined with the consistent play of hard working duo Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman are big pluses and will cause numerous problems for Sporting.

It is the former I like the look of in the scorer markets, with the preference being the 6/1 about the Spaniard getting on the scoresheet at anytime.

The match though could be low scoring as Everton have notched just three goals in their last five Europa League matches while Sporting have averaged exactly one goal per match at home in Europe this season.

This leads me to believe that 1-1 in the correct score betting could well be worth a bet at an attractive looking 9/2.

That result will see Everton through, but even if that scoreline prediction is incorrect it is the Toffees I expect to see in the round of 16 where they will meet either Galatasaray or Atletico Madrid.



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