Everton's Europa League dead rubber is throwback to Zenith Data Systems Cup days

By Mark O'Brien on Dec 17, 09 07:57 AM in Fans

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THE 'dead rubber' is something of a novel concept at Goodison, which unfortunately is just an indication of how little European football we've played for a club of our stature.

Still, tonight's final group game against BATE promises to be a muted experience, especially as it's combined with that other European quirk, the alcohol ban.

The whole evening promises to be a throwback to the heady days of the Simod, Full Members and Zenith Data System Cups, with the tiny crowd only kept awake by the voices of the players on the pitch.

Still, given how many times the Blues have exited Europe in the early stages, a bit of a nonentity of a match is a small price to pay.

It will also give the youngsters a chance to play on a bigger stage than the Halton Stadium and more importantly it gives the senior players a chance to rest ahead of Sunday's big game against Birmingham City.

Alex McLeish's men are absolutely flying at the moment, as reflected in the big lead they have over us in the league table.

So where in the past we might have almost regarded this as close to a home banker, that's just not the case any more.

That's an indication of Everton's flaky form this season and also the fact that so many of the Premier League's lesser lights have got their act together and put assembled teams using what could almost be regarded as the 'Moyes model'.

The division is packed with sides that are physically strong, well organised and looking to pressurise opponents high up the field.

In the past there was always a good sprinkling of teams who tried to play nice football but could be bullied out of games, like West Brom last season, for instance, but there are very few soft touches left now, apart from maybe West Ham and, dare we say it, Everton until recently.

Thankfully there's been a noticeable change in attitude of late, as shown in the fighback against Tottenham and then the even more remarkable game at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Some pundits ascribed the result to luck, but given the fact that the home side had conceded only one goal in ten league games up to that point, that verdict seems as mean-spirited as the Chelsea fans' jeers at the final whistle.

It was a great point for Everton, but it still left us dangerously close to the drop zone, so it's absolutely vital now that we put together a run of wins over Christmas.

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