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YAK'S BACK FOR BLUES; Moyes hands errant star chance to redeem himself.

Byline: By IAN DOYLE

DAVID MOYES will tonight give Ayegbeni Yakubu the chance to make amends for going AWOL - as Mikel Arteta deepened Everton's injury gloom.

Yakubu was dropped from the squad that faced Reading on Saturday and slapped by a fine after returning late from Africa Cup of Nations duty with Nigeria last week.

The striker, who has since apologised to his team-mates, was also on the end of a severe dressing down by a hugely disappointed Moyes and reminded of his responsibilities to the club and his colleagues.

A chastised Yakubu has been welcomed back into the fold for the Uefa Cup round of 32 first leg clash with SK Brann in Bergen this evening.

And Moyes is hopeful the contrite forward will be desperate to atone for his missing act.

"Yak's back in and it's done with now, that episode has ended," said the Everton manager.

"Let's just hope he feels he has a point to prove because he let us down by not coming back on time.

"We've moved on and he's been training with us for the last fewdays.He will be important, because he is one of those with European experience and that's vital.

"We're now getting down to the nitty gritty and we would hope that the boys who have been through it all before in Europe are a real help to us.

"We certainly hope he comes back and gets one for us because it's going to be difficult. It was tricky enough beforehand, but we've also got injuries and to be honest it's a bit of a struggle getting a team out."

Arteta was the most significant absentee from the flight that landed in Norway yesterday afternoon.

The midfielder instead travelled to Spain to continue treatment on a persistent groin problem that flared up during the weekend win over Reading.

With Steven Pienaar (ankle) and Thomas Gravesen (knee) already sidelined and Manuel Fernandes struggling with a groin injury, Moyes is desperately short of midfield options and will almost certainly ask Phil Neville to again fill the breach.

And the manager admitted that his team would have benefited from the European know-how of Pienaar and Arteta, who have both been integral in Everton's impressive Premier League form this season.

"Mikel is a really big miss for us," said Moyes. "He's been having treatment for a while and it's been fine, but it came on even worse after Saturday's game, he was in a lot of discomfort then.

"Pienaar won't be playing either, because of the same injury, and I'm going to have to see how Manny is, as he's had the same problem.

"He had to come off in training yesterday because he couldn't finish the session, so I'm going to leave it as late as possible.

"One of the reasons we brought in the likes of Arteta and Pienaar is because of their European experience. It is important to us, so I see them both as a loss.

"We've missed Steven Pienaar now for the two legs of the Chelsea semi-final and five league games.

We're certainly short in midfield."

Moyes, who admitted it's too early to ascertain when Arteta will be available, was at least buoyed by the return to fitness of Victor Anichebe after a knee injury.

Young trio Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell were also in the party that travelled yesterday, along with Andy van der Meyde.

TONIGHT'S officials are from Bulgaria, with Anton Genov the referee.


Striker Ayegbeni Yakubu trains with Everton in Norway yesterday ahead of tonight's Uefa Cup tie with SK Brann
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 13, 2008
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