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Dec 17, 2009

Record-setter Hibbert to lead Everton youngsters

Stand-in captain Tony Hibbert will make a record 20th European appearance for Everton when BATE Borisov visit Goodison Park on Thursday night, but it's the club's youth brigade who are likely to attract the spotlight.

With Everton already through to the knockout round, manager David Moyes will take the opportunity to rest his weary first team players and give some of Everton's up-and-comers a chance.

Everton have been struck by injuries this season, meaning Moyes has been forced to use more or less the same players in both Premier League and Europa League competitions.

So manager David Moyes is turning to youth and might even be tempted to start with 16-year-old left-back Jake Bidwell and midfielder Adam Forshaw, who is only two years older.

Others on the alert are Jose Baxter, Shane Duffy, Hope Akpan, James McCarten, Shkodran Mustafi and Luke Garbutt, a £600,000 signing from Leeds in the summer.

Hibbert, 28, said: "I am sure the lads will love it. The older players do look after the youngsters. We let them know how it is and how it works at the club. Whoever comes in they will get a helping hand.''

Hibbert, who has played centre-half as well as right-back in the campaign, is thrilled at reaching the 20-game milestone.

He said: "I know my family are happy and it is a great achievement. It just shows the strides the club has made over the years. It says a lot for the lads that we have qualified with a game to spare. The injuries we have had are frightening. Playing at centre-half has not been easy. I prefer playing right-back. But you have just got to get on with it.''

Goalkeeper Carlo Nash will make a rare appearance between the posts while Kieran Agard could start up front. Leon Osman might also have a run-out following a foot injury despite only returning to training on Tuesday.

Moyes is pleased they are taking a break from European competition after this match for a couple of months.

He said: "I do not think people realise what it takes out of the players. We have had to play nearly the same team in every game. It has really taken its toll on us. We have had Sunday-Thursday-Sunday-Thursday for weeks now and had 10 or 12 players out. It has been a dreadful situation. But we wanted to get through and did it.''

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