Sun, Nov 07, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Everton maintains its success rate


Everton's Tony Hibbert, right, beats the tackle of Southampton's Jelle van Damme during their match at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England on Oct. 16.


Everton is coping just fine without Wayne Rooney, marquee players or a big payroll.

The Toffees faced their biggest test of the season so far against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Everton has a 7-2-2 record and is only three points off the lead of Arsenal and Chelsea.

"Second versus third has a very nice ring to it," Everton manager David Moyes said.

"They have a fantastic squad at their disposal and we all know that. We've played against a lot of good sides this season and done well. It's a big test for us and one we're looking forward to see how far we've come."

Last season Everton finished one place above the relegation zone despite having Rooney in the lineup.

After Rooney's goal-sciring exploits for England at Euro 2004, offers flooded in for the teenage star. The financially-struggling Everton sold him to Manchester United in the offseason for ?30 million (US$55.30 million).

It hasn't bought anyone since.

Chelsea, meanwhile, has spent close to ?200 million (US$369 million) on new players since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took over in July 2003. Moyes has spent ?15.4 million (US$28 million) in 20 months at Everton.

"We do not have a big check book -- we can't do what Chelsea have done," Moyes said Friday. "But we are more than just being about spirit and effort and if we can make a good fist at bucking the trend maybe it will give encouragement to a few other clubs like us.

"The two sides go on the pitch together as equals, we have earned that."

Despite two losses at home, Everton is the only English club yet to lose away in league play. Rooney is long forgotten.

"He doesn't play for this club any more and he's somewhere else and we are getting on with our lives," Moyes said.

Everton is facing a Chelsea brimming with confidence. Jose Mourinho's side won 1-0 at CSKA Moscow on Tuesday, becoming the first club to reach the second round of the Champions League.

Chelsea's 4-1 win over West Bromwich Albion last Saturday -- combined with Arsenal's 2-2 draw with Southampton -- put the Blues level on points with the Gunners. Chelsea has closed Arsenal's five-point lead in the past two weeks.

Chelsea can take over first place Saturday if Arsenal fails to win at Crystal Palace.

The Gunners are in a rare slump, with only one victory in the last five games. The latest slip was a 1-1 draw with Panathinaikos on Tuesday at Highbury in the Champions League. Under Mourinho, Chelsea has given up only three goals in the league and one in the Champions League.

"Before every game, he gives us power," Chelsea defender William Gallas said. "He is a very strict manager but outside he is a nice person."

Alex Ferguson today marks the 18th anniversary of his time in charge of Manchester United.

But it won't be easy -- the opponent is crosstown rival Manchester City. And United will be without the suspended Ruud van Nistelrooy, who scored all four goals in the 4-1 Champions League victory over Sparta Prague on Wednesday.

The last time the two met, City beat United 4-1. This time, they're at Old Trafford where Man City hasn't won since 1974.

Last weekend, United lost 2-0 at Portsmouth. It was a stunning letdown after the morale-boosting 2-0 win over Arsenal the week before that ended the Gunners' 49-match unbeaten streak. The Red Devils now trail nine points behind Arsenal and Chelsea.

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