It has been a long ride for both Everton and Sporting Lisbon.
For the former, a long list of injuries during the earlier part of the season proved crippling to both form and league success. Yet, the return to fitness of Phil Neville, Mikel Arteta, Leon Osman, and others, as well as the loan arrival of Landon Donovan and recent goalscoring form of Louis Saha has clearly reignited the spark that led the squad to last year's FA Cup Final.
Evidence enough can be found in last week's 2-1 victory against league-leading Chelsea. Everton is going into tomorrow's game full of confidence.
The opposite could be said of Sporting Lisbon. A bright beginning to the season has recently fizzled out and the team, despite the goalscoring exploits of Brazilian-born Portuguese international Liedson, are finding themselves riding into tomorrow's battle with only one win in their last five games.
Nevertheless, nothing is written in stone.
Everton struggled against another Portuguese side, high-flying Benfica, in the group stage of their Europa campaign, collecting an embarrassing final aggregate score of 0-7. Perhaps, the slower pace and more flashy Latin style of Portuguese football will prove too overwhelming for the tough, traditional approach of David Moyes.
Still, I'd recommend you not bet on it.
Although it should be noted that Everton will be missing two of their most consistent performers this season, Marouane Fellaini (injury) and Johnny Heitenga (ineligibility because of earlier participation with Atletico Madrid), it is unlikely they will fall at Goodison Park.
Commenting on the game, recently back-in-form Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta has said, "It's going to be unbelievable. It's a great chance for us and we need to go through. We're playing at home first, so we know that we can't concede any goals. We have the experience, so let's focus on that."
David Moyes should certainly be in agreement with Mikel Arteta's statement regarding what could potentially be the destructive result of conceding a precious away goal, especially after Everton find themselves in such a favorable position ahead of tomorrow's match.
Sporting Lisbon's coach Carlos Carvalhal, however, is quick to point out the fact that Lisbon is still a top side with potential for an upset. In a press conference last night, he stated that, "We should see this competition as an opportunity to do well and one we can win. It is a different situation to the league...we know Everton are in form and beat Chelsea..but we will fight until the last second and do our best.''
And, on a cool European night, anything can happen.
Birmingham City FC (H) L 1-2
Sunderland AFC (H) W 2-0
Wigan Athletic FC (A) W 1-0
Liverpool FC (A) L 0-1
Chelsea FC (H) W 2-1
Sporting Clube de Portugal DLLLW
Mafra (H) W 4-3
SC Braga (A) L 0-1
FC Porto (A) L 2-5
Académica de Coimbra (H) L 1-2
FC Paços de Ferreira (A) D 0-0
Everton: Tim Howard, Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin, Philippe Senderos, Phil Neville, Steven Peinaar, Mikel Arteta, Jack Rodwell, Landon Donovan, Tim Cahill, Louis Saha
(Subs) Yakubu, Leon Osman, Joseph Yobo, Dan Gosling, Seamus Coleman, Victor Anichebe, Carlo Nash, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, James Vaughan
Sporting: Rui Patricio, Filipe Carrico, Leandro Grimi, Antonio Tonel, Fernando Abel, Pedro Mendes, Matias Fernandez, Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Marat Izmailov, Liedson
(Subs) Ferreira Tiago, Simon Vukcevic, Anderson Polga, Adrien Silva, Marques Pereirinha, Miguel Saleiro, Yannick
Everton 2-0 Sporting