Neville lauds Everton's 'best squad'

BY foxsports • February 24, 2010

And that is why Neville is convinced they have as good a chance as any of winning the Europa League. Everton hold a 2-1 advantage going into the second leg of the round of 32 against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday and even though they are missing a number of key players, Neville was in bullish mood ahead of the match. He said: "When I signed we had just qualified for the Champions League and brought in four or five players before deadline. We didn't have the experience to cope with Europe. "The year after was different and we embraced the experience. It seemed to galvanise the whole team and the club in general. "This is the finest squad of players we've had in my time at the club. We have a fine blend of youth and experience, continental experience as well. "The next step for this club is to win a major competition. This season this competition represents our best option." Former Manchester United and England defender Neville still relishes these nights across Europe. However, the 33-year-old has warned his team-mates to be on their guard after Sporting pulled a goal back from the penalty spot in the first leg late in the game. That saw Sylvain Distin sent off an he will miss out the return game through suspension. Neville added: "If you do not concentrate in Europe you get punished. We switched off and the game finished 2-1. It means the tie is finely balanced. "It is a great learning curve at this level whether you are young or experienced. You take something from every game." Everton manager Moyes faces defensive problems. In addition to Distin being absent, John Heitinga and Tony Hibbert are also missing. Phillipe Senderos is also struggling with a back problem but has travelled which means Phil Jagielka could be drafted in. The 27-year-old has not featured for the first team since rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Manchester City last April. Moyes, however, would have few qualms about including Jagielka even though he has not had any reserve matches. He was due to play last night but the match was postponed. "I have a lot of confidence in the boy, " said the Everton boss. "He is a really good player and we have missed him a lot. "Obviously he has not had any games but sometimes needs must. We will see." Neville insists Jagielka will cope. "Even if you play three or four reserve games it is still hard to come into Premier League or European games," he continued. "Sometimes it is best to come straight back into it like I did, rather than worry about it. "It is perhaps better to be thrown in the deep end. He will probably be nervous but adrenaline will get him through. "Phil is an old-fashioned type, who knows his strengths. I have no worries about him."

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