Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Pienaar on verge of Everton comeback

Steven Pienaar is on the verge of an Everton comeback after being included in David Moyes's squad for the make-or-break UEFA Cup clash with Standard Liege in Belgium on Thursday.

The South Africa midfielder is not expected to start in Liege but has been judged fit enough to travel with the squad for the first time since breaking his big toe in a pre-season friendly against PSV Eindhoven in August.

His recall to the squad comes less than a week after the 26-year-old was arrested for following an alleged assault on a woman in Liverpool.

Everton are facing a premature exit from the competition after being held to a 2-2 draw in the first leg at Goodison Park and must do without former Liege midfielder Marouane Fellaini who is cup-tied.

Moyes also has Tim Cahill available before the Australian begins a three-match domestic ban following the red card he received in the Merseyside derby at the weekend.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard believes he and his team-mates can take heart from their performance at the same stage of the competition last season, when they went to Ukraine having been held to a 1-1 first leg draw by Metalist Kharkiv but made it through to the group stage of the competiton.

“Last year we were resilient and we went there and got the goals we needed,” Howard said. “They were a difficult side and now we are sitting here faced with the same challenge as last year so we hope we can draw on that experience.”

The former Manchester United keeper added: “People say you want to play the away leg first but I have played European football for five seasons now and I am not entirely sure that is always the right way.

“People have been schooled to say that, but I see it differently. Okay, they have two away goals but we now know what we have to do and our goals are going to count for more. I think we are right where we want to be.”

Despite that view, Howard knows Everton have to improve after a sluggish start to the season.

“The mood is still positive,” he insisted. “It has to be. It's no secret that we haven't started the season the way we would like to have done.

“We have to go and win one game. You can pick it apart and dissect it but at the end of the day we have to win one game against a side we know we can beat.”



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