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Thursday 18 September K.O. 20:05

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Under-18s Ready To Defend Title

Young Blues face Middlesbrough at home on Saturday.

Under-18s Ready To Defend Title

Everton Under-18s begin their defence of the Premier League title at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday.

The young Blues triumphed in the end of season final with a 1-0 win over Manchester City at Goodison Park in May.

And three months on, Kevin Sheedy has welcomed in the latest batch of first-year scholars and prepared his champions for a repeat performance.

A busy pre-season will have helped those preparations; the Toffees putting six past both Bury and Preston in mid-July.

Draws against Crewe Alexandra and Sheffield United came either side of victory over Wigan, followed by a 4-0 thumping of Celtic.

They then headed to South Africa for the Under-19 Durban International Tournament, commencing with defeats to Santos and Feyenoord in early August.

A draw against the South Africa Under-19 national team would not be enough for qualification and a last-minute friendly against Roma was arranged to finish off the tour.

The tournament proved to be a stern test for Sheedy's group of predominantly 16 and 17-year-olds as they came up against teams two to three years more senior.

And that difference may turn out to have been the ideal challenge as the Blues gear themselves up for the new league season.

Keep an eye on evertonfc.com for a report and reaction from Saturday's game against Middlesbrough (1pm kick-off).

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