While Arsène Wenger unleashes his youngsters, David Moyes is expected to field his strongest possible side at Highbury tonight.

The Everton manager sees the Carling Cup as a potential route into European football and will be hoping to capitalise on the absence of Arsenal's first-team regulars.

"It will be largely the same team which started at Chelsea on Saturday," explains Scott MacLeod of the Liverpool Echo. "Richard Wright has a back strain and is 50-50 but Gary Naysmith should be back after an ankle injury.

"Leon Osman and Duncan Ferguson have thigh strains and are both doubts, while Lee Carsley is suspended, but James McFadden, Nick Chadwick and Joseph Yobo should all start."

They aren't names which will have Arsenal's young talent quaking in their boots but, as the Premiership table shows, Everton don't need big names to make a big impression.

Gloom and doom descended on the blue half of Merseyside after Wayne Rooney's departure to Manchester United, but a run of just two defeats in 13 games has lifted spirits.

It won't have escaped Everton fans' attention that their team is five points clear of Rooney's new employers, and McLeod attributes that to an unflinching work ethic at Goodison Park.

"They have all worked their socks off," he said. "After the opening day defeat against Arsenal, Moyes sat them down and explained that they could get into a real mess if they weren't careful.

"There was a strong team spirit in pre-season after an open forum cleared up a number of issues from last season, and the team has gone back to basics on the pitch.

"They have been solid and taken their unity on the training ground to the pitch. It has been a breath of fresh air."

Arsenal's first team put four goals past the Toffees on the opening day but Moyes' men have only conceded four in six Premiership away games this season. The young Gunners can expect a stern test tonight.


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9 Nov 2004