Europa League Preview
Steven Naismith misses the trip to Germany with a hamstring injury
Everton are back in Europa League action this week as they travel to Wolfsburg for what is, on paper, their most difficult assignment yet in this season's competition. Though the Blues won September's meeting at Goodison Park handsomely, the 4-1 scoreline masked the strength of the Bundesliga side and Roberto Martinez will know that his men are unlikely to find them so accommodating on their own patch.
Even so, Everton have travelled well so far in Europe this season, carrying out their assignments in Krasnodar and Lille in unspectacular but efficient fashion to earn the draws that, coupled with two impressive home wins, leave them with one foot in the next round going into the fifth round of Group H matches.
The job is by no means done, of course, and Martinez would, no doubt, love to top the group; that makes avoiding defeat in the Volkswagen Arena of paramount importance — a win for the Germans would put them top of the pile going into the final group matches.
The Toffees' boss comes into the fixture with a number of injury concerns that will complicate his thinking as he plots his team. Steven Naismith is ruled out after picking up a hamstring strain at the end of Saturday's win with West Ham United, joining John Stones and Antolin Alcaraz on the list of unvailable players that will also likely include Bryan Oviedo, Gareth Barry, Stephen Pienaar, Leighton Baines and Darron Gibson.
Oviedo continues to be brought back slowly from his double leg-break and the removal of the screws from his bones last month, while it is surely too soon after Barry's ankle ligament injury for him to return. Baines, Pienaar and Gibson are nursing minor complaints and Martinez will no doubt weigh their inclusion against the probability of qualifcation from the group irrespective of the result on Thursday evening and the importance of Sunday's clash with Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Tony Hibbert was an able if unspectacular deputy for Baines against the Hammers at the weekend while Osman appeared to revel in a deeper-lying role in Barry's stead. Both could start again, although there is also scope for Luke Garbutt to make his second start of the season if the manager is feeling bolder. His decision to put Matthew Pennington and Brendan Galloway on first-team standby this week may also hint at some fresher faces appearing on the squad list for Germany.
Again, much depends on the level of the Catalan's desire to ensure he comes away from Wolfsburg with a result. Much will be asked of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka between now and the end of the year and while it's probable that the likes of Tyias Browning will see some action in the coming weeks, it remains to be seen whether Martinez would risk them against such a talented side as that of Dieter Hecking.
Since losing on Merseyside two months ago, Wolfsburg have been on a terrific run that has seen them win six of eight and propelled them to second in the Bundesliga behind leaders Bayern Munich. Their defeat at Schalke (a team that lost 5-0 at home to Chelsea in the Champions League this week, it should be noted) ended a six-game winning streak, so there will be some uncertainty for the Blues to exploit.
Key for Everton will be shackling Kevin de Bruyne, Ricardo Rodriguez and Ivan Perisic who starred for Croatia at the World Cup in Brazil but missed the match at Goodison with a shoulder injury. De Bruyne, in particular, was the chief orchestrator of the German team's best moments in that match, although he and his teammates were largely restricted to long-range efforts from the night and Rodriguez only managed to beat Tim Howard with a world-class free kick in injury time.
A big test for Everton without doubt but while a draw is enough to qualify, if they can carve out a win, passage to the knockout phase of the Europa League as group winners is assured with a game to spare.
Kick off: 6pm
Update None of Gareth Barry, Leighton Baines, Darron Gibson and Steven Pienaar have travelled to Wolfsburg but Tyias Browning, Ryan Ledson, Arouna Kone and goalkeeper Russell Griffiths are included in the 20-man squad for the game.
Full coverage: ToffeeWeb Match Reports
Reader Comments (81)
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1 Posted 26/11/2014 at 07:42:33
Keep it tight at the back and hit them with the counter, and we might just come away with a point or three.
2 Posted 26/11/2014 at 07:58:55
3 Posted 26/11/2014 at 08:22:25
We have to get a point at least, but can this team win?
Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Hibbert,
McCarthy, Osman, Besic
McGeady, EtoÂo, Pienaar.
Old heads and cunning for the first half, then youth and enthusiasm from the 60th minute.
Lukaku, Mirallas, Barkley, Atsu, Browning, Robles.
4 Posted 26/11/2014 at 08:41:11
Although I would never wish an injury on a player, I canÂt help thinking that Naismith could actually do with a rest. His performance at the weekend was below his normal quality and intensity, as evidenced by that sitter he put in to the stands. He looked out of sorts in the international friendly too. Barkley in the middle for me, McGeady on the right and Mirallas on the left. Mirallas needs games by the look of things.
That leaves McCarthy and Osman again in the middle, or Besic. Frankly iÂd like to see Besic play given OsmanÂs advancing years, and the fact that Besic hasnÂt been given much opportunity so far!
5 Posted 26/11/2014 at 08:58:13
You arenÂt 2nd in Bundesliga unless you are good and, with our injuries piling up, I just canÂt see a win, even with my blue specs on. DonÂt also forget they that turned Krasnodar over in Russia 4-1, where we struggled to stay in game and came away with a lucky draw.
6 Posted 26/11/2014 at 09:04:53
Coleman, Jagielka, Browning, Garbutt
McGeady EtoÂo Mirallas
7 Posted 26/11/2014 at 09:09:31
Hopefully Baines and a few others are ready to return on Sunday.
8 Posted 26/11/2014 at 09:02:01
But yes, Laurie (#3), an experienced XI to start with to soak up all the pressure as they will throw everything at us and then bring on some fresh young legs to spring a few surprises.
Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Hibbert (Browning)
McCarthy, Osman (Besic/Barkley)
Mirallas (Barkley), McGeady (Atsu)
Lukaku, EtoÂo (Besic, Barkley)
9 Posted 26/11/2014 at 09:46:04
Pienaar has been one of my favorite players over the last 7 yearÂs but sadly IÂm facing up to the reality that, in his second spell here, apart from those early months on loan in 2012, he has not been the same, due mostly through injury after injury.
Wolfsburg away IS the hardest match of the group, no question about it. We havenÂt got a fully fit squad so IÂm sure it will be predominantly a backs-to-the-wall job. We havenÂt really played well in the away games, we have rather stifled two average teams in Lille and Krasnodar but Wolfsburg in Germany will be a totally different proposition.
The only good thing is that we should get at least a point in our final game at home against Krasnodar, with the RussianÂs liable to have little interest themselves. A couple of good performanceÂs wouldnÂt go amiss... though, one thing about this season so far is we have seldom clicked and blown anyone away, maybe Villa but I thought that was as much how bad they were that day rather than us scintillating.
We canÂt always blame injuries, fact is we are likely to go through the whole season with niggly injuries and seldom will we have a full side to choose from.
10 Posted 26/11/2014 at 10:27:00
On-form, we would be a match for anyone but we are not on-form and havenÂt yet been on-form this season.
11 Posted 26/11/2014 at 10:24:16
The blue invasion of Germany begins today: trains, planes and automobiles... Hamburg, Hannover, Berlin better watch out!
12 Posted 26/11/2014 at 10:30:54
IMO, a lot of the striker problems is the reduction in assists from Baines as he has had no partner on his side to cover his forward forays. Pienaar at his best is absolutely full of industry and does take men on (hence the fouls) and Leighton has knocked a few free kicks in from just outside the box. At the moment, we do not seem to have a player who is able to do the Pienaar job as he is virtually telepathic with Baines on occasion.
I noticed that both fullbacks were involved in ClyneÂs equalizer against Villa and that reminded me so much of ColemanÂs similar goal from Baines cross. Sadly this is lacking of late. I hope that Roberto can get one of our attacking midfielders to form a partnership with Baines if Pienaar is indeed on the wane.
13 Posted 26/11/2014 at 10:49:31
14 Posted 26/11/2014 at 11:21:20
15 Posted 26/11/2014 at 11:46:58
Osman probably suits the European game and played very well on Saturday, I fancy us to nick a win with big Rom coming off the bench to score the winner.
16 Posted 26/11/2014 at 11:59:37
17 Posted 26/11/2014 at 12:13:55
18 Posted 26/11/2014 at 12:19:47
The Europa League is a way to continue European football next season. This will attract players to the club and help to ensure continuation of progress. Getting into the top four is still a huge mountain to climb with our supposed limited finances. The big money spenders will rise again as they can just ÂbuyÂ their way.
LetÂs see where we are at the end of January as there are a lot of games to play and a lot of points to play for. It will be really interesting to see where Southampton are by then as they have looked a really good team this season so far.
19 Posted 26/11/2014 at 12:49:16
How many of their efforts were from outside the box! Most of them IÂd have thought (no, IÂve not checked the stats just going from memory)! Says to me we defended pretty well frustrating them and we restricted them to shooting on sight.
20 Posted 26/11/2014 at 12:32:47
Coleman Jagielka Distin Hibbert/Garbutt
Mirallas Barkley McGeady
Subs: Robles, Browning, Garbutt/Hibbert, Atsu, Kone, EtoÂo, Osman
That is one strong first XI and a decent bench to change things if required. I wouldnÂt be too worried about the Tottenham game Â– they would also be coming off a Europa game, so let us take it one game at a time.
21 Posted 26/11/2014 at 13:21:16
Given the long list of injuries we must cope with now and WolfsburgÂs recent resurgence, I would say I will be happy with a draw in Germany. I would opt for a 4-4-2 formation in the first half to have more control in the midfield and then, at around an hour-mark, IÂd let some freshness onto the pitch with Mirallas and Lukaku.
So, for me, this would be the starting XI:
Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Hibbert (or Baines Â– if fit!)
Barkley, McCarthy, Besic, Osman
Then sub out Osman for Mirallas and EtoÂo for Lukaku to form a more offensive-minded 4-2-3-1:
Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Hibbert/Baines
Mirallas, Barkley, McGeady
22 Posted 26/11/2014 at 13:32:23
I predict a twatting for us if we play anywhere near the game and tactics we used in Krasnodar.
23 Posted 26/11/2014 at 13:37:12
Anyway we might lose and still qualify if the other game ends in a draw and weÂll have a second-bite of the cherry in the final match. IÂm pretty sure most of us would have accepted that scenario prior to the season starting.
24 Posted 26/11/2014 at 13:45:11
25 Posted 26/11/2014 at 14:19:32
But with Spurs coming up on Sunday, then Hull at home on Wednesday, then Man City away, we are going to need everybody fit.
Did my eyes deceive me as I was looking on FB earlier, or was that really Kone getting on the plane at Speke Airport?
26 Posted 26/11/2014 at 14:11:27
For me, that would mean AjayÂs line-up (assuming Baines isnÂt fit) but with one exception: I agree with Mike Childs that McCarthy could do with a rest before we burn him out, so IÂd replace him with Osman.
A draw would be a decent outcome and, if results go our way, we can give the younger ones a run out in the final game Â– and maybe a few of the walking wounded trying to get back, eg, Oviedo, Pienaar and Kone, if the latter really is capable of playing.
27 Posted 26/11/2014 at 14:26:54
This could be the time to revert to a Moyesesque gritty defensive rearguard and hope to catch them on the break.
It will be a good test of this teamÂs progression under Roberto but IÂd be delighted with a point, any which way.
28 Posted 26/11/2014 at 14:41:04
2-1 the Blues. COYB, Turkey, Mashed Potaoes, Stuffing, Gravy, and Vino!
29 Posted 26/11/2014 at 14:40:21
30 Posted 26/11/2014 at 14:51:41
So COYB, get the job done, so heÂll have the chance of a jolly in the next round.
Odds on a Kone hat-trick? :-)
31 Posted 26/11/2014 at 14:42:17
32 Posted 26/11/2014 at 15:25:08
Then again, it could be the Ross Barkley show given Naismith is out and that centre role behind forward is where he should be playing. I can see it being a 4-5-1 with Mirallas to start and Kone to get a run second half. ItÂs going to be interesting whatever the line-up and tactics employed. 0-0 or one goal either way. Exciting prospect.
33 Posted 26/11/2014 at 15:48:26
I think that is half the problem with regards Pienaar. He is still in the squad because of his "telepathic" partnership with Baines... when, in reality, his performances and partnership have been non existent for nearing two seasons now.
He was my favourite player but, adding his more frequent injury spells to his inability to even stand up at times on the pitch, then I think itÂs time to now find an alternative to play with Baines down the left.
34 Posted 26/11/2014 at 16:08:18
35 Posted 26/11/2014 at 16:47:15
36 Posted 26/11/2014 at 16:51:40
37 Posted 26/11/2014 at 16:59:20
Our team will progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League....
On the fringes of top 4
Fuckin hopeless, this Martinez fella.
38 Posted 26/11/2014 at 16:56:02
39 Posted 26/11/2014 at 17:05:04
He added: "We have massive respect for Wolfsburg. We know they are in good form, but the squad is ready for the challenge."
40 Posted 26/11/2014 at 17:31:06
Only thing left really is to try and finish first and avoid a CL team in the next round Â– which is the problem as Wolfsburg are trying to do exactly the same (as well as gain some revenge).
We need to play our strongest team and look to get a result Â– weÂre simply not set up to go for a 0-0, we inevitably start panicking at the back after 60 minutes and cave in. Have a go and if we get anything out of the game weÂre almost guaranteed to go through as group winners, if not then weÂll likely have a dead rubber in the last game anyway.
Team wise, if Baines is fit, play him. McCarthy and Ossie in the middle worked well against West Ham so would stick with them (give Ossie a break after 60 mins or so). McGeady to come in for Naismith and start Barkley behind Lukaku with super sub EtoÂo to come in later. Hopefully Mirallas will be a bit better having played over the weekend.
Looking forward to it Â– I just hope we give it a go!
41 Posted 26/11/2014 at 17:30:43
IÂm wincing when I consider what our respective forms (dating from half-time in the Goodison encounter) suggest might happen tomorrow night.
42 Posted 26/11/2014 at 18:36:55
IÂm a fan of Martinez but I donÂt really care much about points totals. WeÂre not through in the Europa League group yet and we have been on the fringe of top 4 for a while now.
To be honest, untill we win a cup or get top 4, then heÂs not really taken us significant steps forward in my eyes, though the signs are promising and we live in hope.
Tomorrow will be a good test of where we are in terms of European progression. I remember MoyesÂs team getting taught a lesson in quite a few away games in Europe.
43 Posted 26/11/2014 at 18:40:57
WeÂd need to be four up with five minutes to go to be safe with them on the field!
44 Posted 26/11/2014 at 18:58:41
45 Posted 26/11/2014 at 19:37:42
46 Posted 26/11/2014 at 19:49:21
47 Posted 26/11/2014 at 19:53:01
"Our respective forms"? You havenÂt noticed we are unbeaten in eight games then.
It will be a tough game, they are the second best side in the group.
The biggest quandary is who to play in midfield especially if Barry is going to be unavailable on Sunday. We will probably want to play our strongest team against Spurs so my midfield would be:
McCarthy, Barkley, McGeady, Besic and Atsu.
Injuries permitting on Sunday, I would replace Barkley and Atsu with Mirallas and Osman.
48 Posted 26/11/2014 at 19:48:17
I think playing EtoÂo up top with Osman behind would be a very good combination. Bring Lukaku and Barkley on for last 30 minutes, depending on the score at the time of course.
Coleman Jagielka Distin Garbutt
McGeady Osman Mirallas
49 Posted 26/11/2014 at 20:32:13
Martinez accrued the highest total of points in 24 years in his first season and that doesnÂt interest you?
50 Posted 26/11/2014 at 20:42:52
51 Posted 26/11/2014 at 21:16:27
52 Posted 26/11/2014 at 21:36:39
Regardless of how the team play, or who weÂre playing, he wants us to play to win, we donÂt make excuses about money and weÂre not beaten before the game has kicked off.
It doesnÂt always come good in either the performance or the result, but the attitude is an important one if we are to win anything.
53 Posted 26/11/2014 at 21:50:02
54 Posted 27/11/2014 at 00:08:26
For me, significant progress means winning a cup or getting top 4. Ideally on a regular basis. These were the things that we were mostly unable to do under Moyes. All the other stuff is just foreplay and as the missus will tell you... IÂm not that bothered.
Of course that wonÂt stop me being on here and analysing it all till iÂm blue in the face but thatÂs just because I need my fix!
55 Posted 27/11/2014 at 03:13:43
56 Posted 27/11/2014 at 06:26:23
YouÂre right though Â– we desperately need a trophy.
Tough game tonight, Wolfsburg are a very good side. A point would be a massive result for us.
57 Posted 27/11/2014 at 07:18:49
58 Posted 27/11/2014 at 08:01:39
I donÂt think Kone would be expected to play and unlikely to come off the bench. The fact that he is in the squad is just an indication that he is part way back on his journey to full fitness. All of the others left behind are clearly still injured.
59 Posted 27/11/2014 at 08:02:16
We have been clobbered by injuries this season but, when you look at the number of young and younger players in the squad, and the talent coming though from the academy, I see a bright future. I just wish Samuel EtoÂo was a couple of years younger. I love watching this guy play for us.
From what IÂve seen of Wolfsburg, De Bruin is the player that makes them tick. He seems to operate mostly on the right-hand side of the park (our left) so I would definitely start Hibbert and Besic.
I have got a good feeling about this one Â– I think we are going to really turn up.
60 Posted 27/11/2014 at 09:15:33
The German press confirms that Rogriguez and Vieira both play but Guilavogui misses out.
It concentrates on WolfsburgÂs approach to the game, wanting revenge but "no gung-ho stuff Â– just patience" (Keinen Hurrah Â– Stil, sondern Geduld).
Not much comment about Everton apart from Roberto waxing lyrical about the opponents who "next year will play in the Champions League" (Wolfgang wird nachstes Jahr in der Champions League Spielen).
61 Posted 27/11/2014 at 09:57:16
Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Garbutt
Mirallas, EtoÂo, Barkley
I thought EtoÂo was excellent when he came on on Saturday and brilliant against Burnley a few weeks back. Give him the Âbehind the strikerÂ role, I say. Barkley on the left is not ideal, maybe McGeady instead.
Not an easy one for RM but thatÂs why heÂs paid the big bucks.
62 Posted 27/11/2014 at 10:23:17
Also, I expect Kone to get some game time. I always liked Kone at Wigan and he has had some dreadful bad luck whilst with us. He could make a big impact if he is fully fit. If he isnÂt going to be fully fit one has to question what is he doing on the payroll. Also Besic Â– he has played in the World Cup, if he isnÂt good enough to do a professional job tonight someone hasnÂt done their homework properly.
I do also think that question marks should be asked about Pienaar and Gibson. I think they are both class acts when fully fit and have enjoyed every minute of them in a blue shirt but they are expensive players if they canÂt get off the physioÂs bench.
63 Posted 27/11/2014 at 10:46:51
With you there as regards Sammy playing in the slot, given licence to go left or right to assist or receive, I think that is his favourite role, and what a class acquisition he is. I just wish Rom had his control and ball-dribbling skills, then he really would be vying for the best in the world.
Kevin (#62), Good point you make regarding Garbutt, it must be really disheartening for these youngsters to make (or not make) the bench, and be overlooked by an out-of-position Hibbo. I am not a great fan of Hibbo really, but do admit he always gives his all for the cause.
I do not like to see him go past the halfway line, though, whether that be at right or left back position. I think he should be used when we are down to bare bones, but not to oust younger quicker players who are left-sided anyway.
I think with the correct team selection tonight, we can either draw or possibly sneak a win, itÂs just getting that blend (injuries permitting) right on the night!
64 Posted 27/11/2014 at 12:06:21
65 Posted 27/11/2014 at 11:55:47
The problem is the tackling by the midfield players he has available, of which only McCarthy is noteworthy. Besic is still a little rough around the edges. Mirallas, Osman, Barkley & Co are not the best so it may make sense to go with an attacking formation rather than try to sit back. I would personally start EtoÂo and McGeady today at the expense of some others.
We know Wolfsburg can be dangerous on attack but they are also very suspect on defence and may be surprised if Everton come at them from the outset. Having said all that, the chances are RM will set up to park the bus and go for that one point at least.
66 Posted 27/11/2014 at 12:18:13
67 Posted 27/11/2014 at 12:21:10
Coleman Jagielka Distin Hibbert
McGeady EtoÂo Mirallas
With Barkley and Kone given run-outs.
68 Posted 27/11/2014 at 12:26:18
69 Posted 27/11/2014 at 12:19:48
Believe me, most footballers just want to do what they do best and play football.
70 Posted 27/11/2014 at 12:44:02
But he had such problems before coming to England so heÂll have developed a strategy to cope.
I wonder if we shall ever see him in serious action?
71 Posted 27/11/2014 at 12:52:22
Whose idea was that then?
72 Posted 27/11/2014 at 12:20:55
I was listening to a very interesting interview with John Giles (played for Man Utd and ÂDirtyÂ Leeds in the Â60s and Â70s) and he was talking about Don Revie. Revie he said; believed football should be kept simple, so he would always trust in his players; send them out to just play football and spend very little time on the opposition. These days; with one, two or sometimes even three defensive midfielders, that has just got lost.
I would rather go after them and lose than sit back and defend for 90 minutes.
Ensuing discussion moved to The Game forum Â– Mods
73 Posted 27/11/2014 at 13:37:52
I hope you are not saying that Everton are going to have a player on the bench just as a spectator? It seems a waste to me as I thought the bench was there in case of injuries or for changing tactics.
74 Posted 27/11/2014 at 13:48:29
75 Posted 27/11/2014 at 13:46:08
76 Posted 27/11/2014 at 13:47:50
77 Posted 27/11/2014 at 12:43:21
I canÂt make my mind up on leftback though.......
78 Posted 27/11/2014 at 13:54:19
79 Posted 27/11/2014 at 14:09:00
80 Posted 27/11/2014 at 16:03:47
81 Posted 27/11/2014 at 16:15:17
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