Mini-Derby At Goodison Tonight

@Everton

David Unsworth has backed his Under-21 side to embrace this evening's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park.

The young Blues take on Liverpool under the floodlights at 7pm, with entry free for Season Ticket holders and FOREVERTON members.

And despite Unsworth's current crop of available players being predominantly under the age of 18, he hopes previous Goodison outings can settle any nerves on the night.

"It's a great game for the players, especially with it being at Goodison," Unsworth told evertonfc.com. "I know how much the lads are looking forward to it.

"At the start of the season, a few of them hadn't played at Goodison and you could tell in their performances that it affected them a little bit.

"There are no excuses now. Goodison is a wonderful stadium to play your games at and, against the old enemy, it's one they should be looking forward to.

"This is why they are footballers, why they have chosen this career path. To play big games at Goodison Park - what better opportunity is there?"

The Under-21s suffered a cruel defeat against the Reds last time out, taking the lead through Ryan Ledson only to be pegged back and then undone by an injury-time winner.

Victory would lift the Toffees from near the foot of a congested Barclays Under-21 Premier League table, a position that does not tell the true story of the players' individual development.

Unsworth added: "I'm delighted with the group. We've had so many positive loan spells from our boys. They're all at different stages of their development - and a lot are at the start. 

"Their performances on the whole have been very pleasing and the experiences they've had this year - playing against much older players every week, the loan spells, most of them went to Dallas, the opportunities the manager has given them with training with the first team most days - it's been a great season in that respect. 

"They're an honest group and we have some really talented young players who I expect to kick on in the next two or three seasons and threaten to get into the manager's squad."

With Martinez a regular spectator at the Club's Under-21 fixtures, Thursday's showdown is another chance to impress the Toffees chief.

And Unsworth is confident his charges will not get carried away with the emotions of derby day.

He said: "Liverpool are a good team and we had a great game against them last month. It's never about revenge. If we look at our performance on the night, it was really good and, yes, we wanted to win, but the young players are doing very well at the moment. They are stretched but they are giving everything they can and we will always look at the performance.

"Most of our lads are from the area, so there is that added spice, but they have to play with their heads and we have to go with our gameplan. We'll all be up for it but we have to be calm and controlled."

Entry to tonight's 7pm kick-off is free for Season Ticket holders and FOREVERTON members. Admission on the gate is otherwise priced at £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.

Follow @Everton on Twitter for live match updates. A report will be on evertonfc.com shortly after the final whistle, with reaction and highlights on evertontv from Friday.


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