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Everton could break club record in Cyprus

Toffees could field eight debutants in Europa League dead rubber

Everton FC v Apollon Limassol - UEFA Europa League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

When Everton returned to European competition after a three-year absence in July few would have predicted it would come to an end quite like this.

After easing their way through the qualifiers, the group stages have been nothing short of disastrous.

Three defeats from four games saw the Toffees eliminated with two matches to spare, before a 5-1 thrashing by Atalanta last time out merely added a layer of embarrassment on top of the already obvious disappointment.

All that is left now is to avoid finishing bottom. But, to be honest, none of us really care that much anymore.

It’s pretty obvious Everton don’t care much either, given the squad they have dispatched to Cyprus.

Academy players Harry Charsley, Alex Denny, Fraser Hornby, Nathan Broadhead, Stephen Duke-McKenna, Michael Collins, Shayne Lavery and Anthony Gordon are included.

Among the more familiar faces include the ‘Finch Farm Two’, Kevin Mirallas and Morgan Schneiderlin, who will no doubt be delighted to be sent out to babysit the kids.

Even manager Sam Allardyce is absent, though the reason given is due to ‘a pre-arranged medical appointment’.

New assistant boss Craig Shakespeare and first-team coach Duncan Ferguson will instead take charge, merely adding to the surreal feeling that surrounds this game.

The fact the club have sold out their away allocation is testament to the loyalty of Everton’s travelling support.

The Europa League has been one long embarrassment for Everton this season. We all just want it over with.

The opposition

Apollon’s late equaliser against Everton in October was an early tipping point in Ronald Koeman’s season.

Coming off the back of two wins, the hugely disappointing draw from what should have been (on paper at least) a home banker was a significant blow.

Koeman would be gone just over three weeks later.

Apollon meanwhile have won six of their 11 games since that match at Goodison Park, the only defeats being away at Atalanta and Lyon.

Atalanta v Apollon Limassol - UEFA Europa League Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

That means the Cypriot side join Everton in being eliminated from the competition before the final group game, making this match the deadest of dead rubbers.

Sofronis Avgousti’s side are currently third in the Cypriot First Division, just one point behind leaders Apoel.

Therefore expect plenty of changes from the home side as they, like Everton, switch their attentions to the league.

Team news

As mentioned, Everton’s side will have a very youthful look to it as the majority of the senior squad stay at home to focus on this weekend’s Merseyside derby.

The Liverpool Echo reports that Beni Baningime is in line to play at right-back with Mo Besic and Morgan Feeney in the middle and Harry Charsley at left-back. Mirallas and Schneiderlin are also likely to start.

It was hoped James McCarthy would be fit enough to feature but he hasn’t travelled, neither has Sandro Ramirez, who has picked up an injury.

The Toffees could have eight debutants in Cyprus tomorrow - the most in one match since the club’s very first game way back in 1887!

Final word

It will be interesting to see some of the kids in action and a great experience for them.

But beyond that this is merely the final act of what has been a fairly sorry chapter in Everton’s recent history.

Just get it over with.

NB - There is another record that the Blues might break, and it’s quite an unpleasant one too. If Everton fail to win tonight that will mark a streak of seven European games without a win, also a record.