Sport Soccer

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Arteta fighting fit for Everton's Euro bid

Jamie Holland

Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta had forgotten what it was like to prepare for games after a lengthy knee injury.

Arteta, 27, is looking to retain his place in the side against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League tonight at Goodison Park after making his first start in almost a year last week in the superb victory over Chelsea.

Arteta, who is likely to have his wish granted because Marouane Fellaini is recovering from an ankle injury, said: "When I returned it felt like I had never played in my life. I had to get prepared for the game at home and think about the way I had to eat and rest.

"Then I would come here to pick up my shin pads and boots ... the pace of the game, it was awkward. I am trying all I can but I was planning to have more weeks training with the lads. However, with Fellaini's injury we've had to rush it a bit.

He added: "It is going to take a while to get to my best but with the passion I have for every game, hopefully that will compensate a bit."

Arteta is relieved to be on the mend after the injury took longer to heal than anticipated and believes Everton are one of the teams to fear in the competition.

"I was worried as I had a couple of setbacks. It was really hard for me. But in a way I was lucky. We had some other injured players and we tried to help each other by giving advice," he said.

"I have missed matches for a year so you can imagine how excited I am now. The pressure is on myself but obviously it helps that the team is winning.

"Tomorrow is a special game as this is the only way we can get a trophy this year and that is something we are desperate to do. We have the potential and the players."

He added: "We have good experience at this level the last few years. Looking at the other teams we can compete with them."

As well as Fellaini, manager David Moyes will also be without John Heitinga as he is ineligible. Philippe Senderos is doubtful with a back problem but Steven Pienaar returns to the squad following a domestic suspension.

Everton go into the match on a good run of form after just two defeats in 11 games in all competitions.

Sporting, in contrast, are in the middle of a dip after winning their group ahead of Hertha Berlin.

Moyes is anxious to get the better of their opponents after losing 5-0 and 2-0 to Sporting's city neighbours Benfica earlier in the campaign.

Everton v Sporting Lisbon,

Live, ESPN, 5.45

Irish Independent

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