4:00 PM UTC
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AS Roma
6:00 PM UTC
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Athletic Bilbao
6:00 PM UTC
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Tottenham Hotspur
KAA Gent
8:05 PM UTC
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8:05 PM UTC
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Leg 1
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Moyes sets new goal

Everton's problem is a lack of goals. Last term David Moyes' team outscored only the relegated trio of West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Birmingham City in the Premiership goals table. And the season before, when they miraculously took fourth place, they edged virtually every game 1-0.

To address this shortfall the Toffees paid £8.6 million to Crystal Palace for speedy striker Andy Johnson in June this year and the bald-headed 25-year-old may well hold the key to Everton's season.

During his previous outing in the Premiership, with Crystal Palace during the 2004/05 season, he netted 21 times, behind only Thierry Henry in the scoring charts, and won his first England cap. His goals kept the Eagles survival hopes alive until the final day of the season but he ultimately went down with the London club - scoring a further 15 goals in the Championship last term before joining Everton.

Johnson's career was initially held back by the perception he was too small, at 5'7", to play professional football but under Iain Dowie he scored 32 goals in the Championship as Palace won promotion to the Premiership in 2004 and showed rare loyalty in sticking with the club following relegation. But after helping his club to an ultimately doomed play-off berth last season the race for his signature began.

Everton fought off interest from both Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers in order to secure the striker's services and will provide the diminutive half of Everton's big-man little-man partnership with former Southampton striker James Beattie.

With a new England manager to impress and a new set of fans to win over Johnson will be keen to make an immediate impact. However, the early signs of a blossoming understanding with his new partner are not particularly positive as only Beattie has found the net, and only once, in pre-season (at the time of writing).

Evertonian's will be hoping the strike partnership can quickly develop an understanding to avoid a similarly miserable start to last season, when failure to hit the ground running saw the Toffees dumped out of the Champions League qualifying round - which they had fought so hard to reach - and become embroiled in a relegation battle for much of the season.

On paper the pace and guile of Johnson and the physical presence of Beattie form the perfect marriage but waiting for any breakdown in relations is young, Nigerian-born striker Victor Anichebe.

The 18-year-old forward represents the next great young hope at Goodison Park these days and he is certainly one to keep an eye on during the 2006/07 campaign. He reportedly returned to pre-season training a week earlier than his colleagues and his eagerness to impress has certainly paid dividends in Everton's warm-up matches, where he has been scoring for fun.

He booked his place on Everton's tour of the USA, scoring against Columbus Crew, and there are suggestions that he has already jumped ahead of James McFadden as Everton's third choice striker.

After netting an excellent winner in the 3-2 success at Aberdeen in a warm up match, a game in which he also created a goal for Tim Cahill, Manager David Moyes admitted the youngster had given him a selection headache.

'I have not yet decided on who is going to play up front. I am looking to see where the goals are coming from, who is doing well and I will wait and see,' Moyes said. 'Victor has done really well.'

Despite the hopes placed on Anichebe, below the first eleven Everton look a little lightweight and that could well be the reason behind their inconsistency, year after year. A season of progress is undoubtedly followed by one of underachievement - fortunately the graph of peaks and troughs predicts a high rather than the low of last year.

But what would qualify as a season of achievement for Everton? Well if Moyes can keep his first team free from injury then a European place would be a remarkable triumph. With the likes of Mikael Arteta and Tim Cahill orchestrating the midfield - two players who could get into most Premiership sides - and a solid back line, augmented by the purchase of highly-rated defender Joleon Lescott from Wolves, then the Toffees have the potential to rise above the rest of the mid-table mediocrity.

A piece of silverware would mark an even more impressive season and despite the huge reputation manager Moyes arrived with from Preston North End in 2002 the only thing he has managed to win at Everton is the Manager of the Year award twice in three seasons.

The last trophy the club won was a decade ago, the FA Cup in 1995, and before that it was nearly 20-years ago when they lifted the league title in 1987.

The cupboards are bare at Goodison Park and seem likely to remain that way this season. Moyes will certainly focus on the league and his squad appears too threadbare to make a concurrent charge for either the League or FA Cup.

  • Any thoughts on this article? Feel free to email Dominic Raynor