Moyes talks up Everton threat

Liverpool, one of the pre-season title favourites, are facing a

serious battle to retain their place among the Premier League’s

traditional leading quartet this season. Rafael Benitez’s side have

fallen behind Chelsea, Manchester Untied and Arsenal and must now

deal with fierce competition from Tottenham, Aston Villa and

Manchester City for the fourth Champions League spot. And Moyes,

speaking ahead of the 213th Merseyside derby, believes arch-rivals

Everton would also have been up there challenging had injuries not

ravaged the first half of their campaign. “We have got a really

good group of players,” said Moyes, who reaches the landmark of 600

games in management this weekend. “We have a squad I think could

have competed for a place in the top four – but obviously we have

been working with half a squad for most of the year. “We will just

have to see what we can do in the second half of the season after a

disappointing first half.” Everton’s season is now starting to turn

around with Moyes’ men now up to ninth on the back of a nine-game

unbeaten league run. Moyes attributes the upturn in form to the

return to action of several players and he has close to a full

squad available for the short trip across Stanley Park. Playmaker

Mikel Arteta is the latest name to return after a groin strain

interrupted his comeback from a serious knee injury, while Joseph

Yobo and Ayegbeni Yakubu are back from the African Nations Cup.

Loan signings Philippe Senderos and Landon Donovan have also added

competition for places and Moyes feels momentum is building at the

right time. He said: “We have picked up in the last couple of

months. It has been really good and the players have been

performing really well. “They have played well in the games and

shown a real desire to win them. I’m really pleased with how they

have been going. “I think it is because of competition – players

coming back from injury – and I think players are finding form as

well and doing it doing it at the same time. “I wish they had done

that earlier but I will take it while it is going.” Everton were

just four points above the relegation zone when the sides met at

Goodison in November – a game won by Liverpool 2-0 – and the Reds

were also under a cloud due to poor domestic and European

performances. Liverpool’s season has since lurched close to crisis

– not least after their FA Cup elimination last month – but Moyes

thinks too much has been made of their on-field disappointments.

Recent statistics do not look too bad for Liverpool with the team

unbeaten in seven Premier League games and just a point off the

all-important fourth place. Moyes said: “There was a lot of clamour

around Liverpool a month or so ago but they look as if they have

steadied the ship and got some results. “They are getting on with

their job but I have been concentrating on Everton and getting on

with ours and making sure we are on a good run.” Moyes, who began

his managerial career with Preston, is proud of his achievement in

reaching 600 games but admits he is unlikely to be able to savour

it, or the fact it is a derby, this weekend. He added: “I don’t

know if you can go into a game and say you are going to sit back,

enjoy it and look around. “In my mind you’re concentrating, trying

to get the best out of your team and make decisions. “But maybe in

time, when I look back at the end of my career, I’ll look back and

say it was great to be manager in those games.” And the Scot, who

took charge at Everton in 2002 after four years at the Deepdale

helm, is determined that will be some time off yet. “For me it

still feels just like the first game,” he said. “I’m still nervous

and still keen to do well. “I’m glad but a lot of managers at the

LMA [League Managers Association] have got to the 1,000 club. “I am

still a long way off getting there but, fingers crossed, I’m going

to keep going and try to.”