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EVERTON are pondering a summer move for Japan playmaker Keisuke Honda.
The Blues have watched the 26-year-old in action for current club CSKA Moscow, and believe he would be ideally suited to the Premier League.
Attacking midfielder Honda, who has scored nine goals in just 19 games so far this season for the Russian giants, is believed to be interested in a move to England but is also a target for Italian sides Lazio and Fiorentina.
Honda is out of contract in December, meaning he would be available at a knock-down price in the summer.
The 6ft Japan international starred for his country in the last World Cup and has won 41 caps, scoring 13 goals.
Meanwhile, Leon Osman has received his first competitive international call-up after being named in the England squad for next week’s World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.
Leighton Baines has also been named in Roy Hodgson’s 26-man group, but Phil Jagielka misses out as he continues his recovery from ankle surgery.
Osman made his long-awaited international debut last November in a friendly defeat against Sweden before being an unused substitute in last month’s home friendly with Brazil.
The Three Lions play at San Marino on Friday, March 22 before travelling to Montenegro four days later on Tuesday, March 26.
SO OFTEN it is adversity which draws the very best from David Moyes's Everton.
The Scot has forged a squad which has frequently shown its true mettle after fate has conspired against them.
With their backs against the wall once again following last Saturday's deeply dispiriting defeat in the FA Cup quarter final by Wigan, the visit of reigning Champions Manchester City may on paper appear to offer little chance for comfort.
Yet any supporters tempted to write off their team's chance might do well to recall the feeling around Goodison last April, in the aftermath of the Toffees Wembley defeat by Liverpool.
A galling set back, once again they faced a daunting show-down with the then champions Manchester United, but responded by producing one of the games of the Premier League season with a stirring fightback to draw 4-4.
A similarly defiant response at Goodison on Saturday is necessary this time around if Moyes' men are to take anything from a potentially watershed season.
European football next term is the only tangible prize left, but with 10 games to go Europa League qualification will be far from straight forward.
Here's our take on the pitfalls and opportunities remaining in the fixture list for the Blues, as they attempt to finish the season on high.
TOMORROW, Goodison Park, v Manchester City
EVERTON have lost just twice in their last 11 games against City and have not been beaten at Goodison since 2009.
If the players (and the crowd) are able to shrug-off their devastation at last weekend's debacle there is no reason why they can't cause an upset against Roberto Mancini's side again.
SATURDAY, MARCH 30, Goodison Park, v Stoke City
VICTORIES over Tony Pulis' durable battlers are rare for the Blues so they may have to settle for a point as they bid to keep in touch with fellow fifth-placed contenders Liverpool and Arsenal.
SUNDAY, APRIL 7. White Hart lane v Tottenham Hotspur
A FEW months ago this might have been billed as a pivotal stage in the battle for fourth place, but sadly Everton's momentum has long since waned.
Nevertheless Everton will be fired-up to face the in-from Londoners and prove that although their squad may not have the same depth, the punters were not wrong to tag the Toffees as Champions League contenders before January.
SATURDAY, APRIL 13. Goodison Park, v QPR
HARRY HOUDINI’S last-ditch revival of the Rs may be in full swing but Everton must look at the visit of the Londoners as a chance to bag three points and consolidate their bid for Europe.
TUESDAY, APRIL 16. Emirates, v Arsenal
EVERTON’S 18-year wait for a victory over the Gunners in North London suggests this will be a tough task, and perhaps a point would be seen as acceptable bounty.
SATURDAY, APRIL 20. Stadium of Light, v Sunderland
EVERTON will hope to maintain their bogey team jinx over the Wearsiders, who are likely to be safe from the drop but perhaps with less to play for as the season counts down.
SATURDAY, APRIL 27. Goodison Park, v Fulham
MARTIN JOL’S side are no pushovers but Everton should have beaten them in the corresponding fixture last November.
A home victory will be important in the fight for the top six.
SATURDAY, MAY 4. Anfield, v Liverpool.
THE Big One. If the two clubs are still neck and neck vying for a Europa League spot, or perhaps even higher, this could be one of the most important league derbies in a long time.
Can Moyes finally break his duck across Stanley Park?
It would be perfect timing if he could.
SUNDAY, MAY 12. Goodison Park, v West Ham
HOPEFULLY there will be more motivation for the Toffees than the mid-table Hammers at this point, and Moyes’ men can end their Goodison campaign on a high with the season’s finale approaching.
SUNDAY, MAY 19. Stamford Bridge, v Chelsea
A TESTING curtain-closer but another chance for Moyes to land a defiant blow at a ground where his side have rarely tasted victory. If Everton have managed to close the gap on Rafa Benitez’s side at this point it could make it even more interesting.
PHIL Neville has moved to clarify comments he made in an interview which appeared to suggest finishing in the Premier League top 10 was acceptable for Everton.
The Blues skipper received flak from angry supporters after making the admission in a TV interview just 48 hours after his side's FA Cup quarter final humiliation by Wigan last Saturday.
But, writing in his programme notes ahead of Saturday's Goodison clash with Manchester City, the 36-year-old insists his remarks were misconstrued.
He said: "I made some comment during the week about top 10 finishes being fantastic for Everton.
"My comments have been misconstrued. I was trying to compare where Everton are now to where the club was 10 years ago but it didn't come out right.
"Anyone who knows me, knows full well that 'top 10' isn't good enough for me - and the tweets I received made sure I was aware of how the comments had been taken.
"Evertonians quite rightly have high standards for themselves, and for their team, and I can assure you that mine are just as high."