Weblog: The football punter

Solid Everton should keep a clean sheet

Europa League playoff first leg
8.05pm Thursday

Everton have kept it clean this season and they can make it four successive shutouts when Hajduk Split head to Goodison Park for the first leg of their Europa League playoff.

Hajduk are a famous name of the past in Europe, reaching the European Cup/Champions League three times as well as the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup and Cup Winners' Cup, but they were last champions of Croatia in 2005.

It has been a barren time and they are unlikely to get anything from this trip to Merseyside, particularly with dangerous forward Marko Futacs injured.

Futacs was the top scorer in Croatian football last season with 18 goals in 26 appearances as Hajduk finished third in the HNL. The Split side were 19 points behind champions Rijeka and Everton are worth backing to take a lead to Croatia without conceding an away goal.

Everton beat Ruzomberok 1-0 in both legs of their last Europa tie and then repeated the trick against Stoke in Saturday's Premier League opener.

The Toffees look solid defensively and are helped by their robust midfield duo of Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gueye.

James McCarthy and Ross Barkley have joined the list of long-term absentees which is headed by Seamus Coleman, while Sandro Ramirez is rated doubtful by Everton boss Ronald Koeman.

However, Wayne Rooney got off the mark against Stoke and Dominic Calvert-Lewin is another threat who can help the Toffees to move a step closer to the Europa League group stages.

No UK broadcasters have taken up the TV rights to show the match.

Everton to win to nil

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Match in Focus

11:30 Su 25Feb BT3

Crotone v Spal

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Crotone have only scored three goals in their last six home matches
Expert verdict
Three successive defeats to nil have seen Spal get detached from safety but they can stop the bleeding by getting a point at the team immediately above them. Crotone blew their chance of opening up a gap with the bottom three by losing at Benevento last weekend while Spal have to be heartened by the manner of their 1-0 loss at leaders Napoli.