Europa League Preview
Leighton Baines misses the trip to Bern because of injury
Everton step back onto the road to Warsaw this Thursday as their Europa League campaign resumes after a two-and-a-half-month hiatus with a trip to Switzerland to face Young Boys.
In the interim period since they sealed quailfication to the round of 32 as winners of Group H, the Blues' domestic form nose-dived but has now stabilised and Roberto Martinez will, no doubt, be hoping that a return to Continental competition can provide the spark that finally turns the season around.
With their impressive wins over Lille and home and away against Wolfsburg, it has really only been on their European exploits that Everton have looked anything like the free-flowing confident side they were for much of last season. And there is confidence in the camp despite the tricky away leg they must negotiate in Bern this week.
It's been many, many years since Everton have played a competitive match on artificial turf but Blues of a certain vintage will remember how much of a scourge plastic pitches were for us in the 1980s before they were banned by the Football and Premier Leagues. Trips to Loftus Road, Kenilworth Road and Boundary Park became dreaded affairs because of our players' inability to properly adapt to the hard, bouncy plastic surfaces.
The technology of astroturf pitches has moved on since but the surface at Stade de Suisse will be sufficiently different that Martinez has reportedly had his charges training on a similar pitch at the home of Widnes Vikings Rugby League club. The manager said this week that he has been watching Young Boys a lot recently because he has been "interested to see how they adapt to playing on artificial turf. That is something we need to adapt quickly to."
If there is an advantage, it has translated into an impressive run of home form in the Europa League. From the third qualifying round on, they won all of their home games, beating Sparta Prague and Napoli and tying their record win in UEFA competiiton (5-0 over Slovan Bratislava) in the process. Plus, they've only lost twice at home in the league this season but hopefully, the Blues can mitigate that home turf advantage through preparation beforehand and concentration on the night.
Martinez will again be without Leighton Baines and Aiden McGeady, two players who missed both the Merseyside derby and the trip to Chelsea because of injury and, citing the longer recovery times that are apparently associated with the surface, the Catalan has decided not to risk Arouna Kone on the artificial turf .
Under-21s striker Courtney Duffus has travelled with the squad in the Ivorian's stead, however, and Christian Atsu is back in the squad after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations with a player of the tournament award in his back pocket. The Ghanaian's last appearance was his ill-fated start in the final Group H game against Krasnodar which he limped out of with a hamstring injury.
The manager says that he has one eye on Sunday's game with Leicester City when it comes to team selection but it's likely he will go with his strongest possible XI in Bern, meaning few changes from the side that lost narrowly at Chelsea. James McCarthy is likely to come back into the side and if the Stade de Suisse pitch is a concern in terms of availability for the weekend, it could be Gareth Barry who retains his spot against Young Boys given that he is suspended for the next Premier League match.
Assuming Martinez doesn't opt for the defensive three-man defensive midfield he deployed against Liverpool, that would mean Muhamed Besic dropping to the bench. Elsewhere in the side, Ross Barkley could make way for Kevin Mirallas who has revelled in the big Europa League games when fit and would be a good bet to get the nod after starting the defeat at Chelsea on the bench.
Martinez has said that his side will be gunning for a first-leg victory which would be a priceless advantage to take back to Goodison Park for the return leg next week. In reality, an away goal and avoiding defeat are the first priorities and, given their form in this competition thus far, that is a realistic goal.
Kick off: 6pm
Full coverage: ToffeeWeb Match Reports
Reader Comments (60)
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1 Posted 18/02/2015 at 20:19:40
2 Posted 18/02/2015 at 20:32:19
3 Posted 18/02/2015 at 20:53:59
4 Posted 18/02/2015 at 20:56:37
Coleman; Stones; Jagielka; Oviedo
McCarthy; Barkley; Barry
Would like to see Garbutt get some time, but I reckon Roberto will prefer Oviedo.
5 Posted 18/02/2015 at 21:03:31
Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Garbutt
Mirallas, Besic, Barry, Oviedo
8 Posted 18/02/2015 at 21:51:39
10 Posted 18/02/2015 at 22:06:49
IÂll go with that.
Give Garbutt a run out, McCarthy a rest before Leicester and retain strength in MF.
Having played at Preston, Luton and QPR (when it was astroturf) I am a little concerned about the speed the ball kicks up off the pitch and injuries from hitting that stuff. Even top players will struggle on that surface.
11 Posted 18/02/2015 at 21:59:24
The fact that the Redshite are in this competition makes the whole thing a farce.
12 Posted 18/02/2015 at 22:11:59
13 Posted 18/02/2015 at 22:08:58
WeÂre going to have to concentrate and IÂll be happy with an away goal and a score draw and bring them back to Goodison to finish the job.
14 Posted 18/02/2015 at 22:17:48
McCarthy Â– probably will be son in law Gaz Baz
15 Posted 18/02/2015 at 22:25:18
Nonetheless, thatÂs how confident I am. IÂll see you in Poland in a few months time.
16 Posted 18/02/2015 at 22:44:49
Hopefully Everton will show the same discipline as they have in recent games in the Premier League and get a good result for the second leg.
If the Blues can grab a goal early then it may just put the Swiss side out of their stride.
17 Posted 18/02/2015 at 22:45:48
Is actually deemed to be grass? Is no more than two inches high across at least two thirds of the pitch? Is guaranteed at least two weeks recovery time before he is next asked to actually do the job for which he is paid? In the name of heaven when is this indulgent nonsense going to stop?
18 Posted 18/02/2015 at 22:48:17
I expect the Blues to cut loose, keep a clean sheet tomorrow and win 4-0 over the 2 games.
ItÂs also good to see the fan-friendly, detailed travelling information from the Swiss police.
20 Posted 18/02/2015 at 23:38:39
21 Posted 18/02/2015 at 23:56:54
I seem to recall and FA Cup match in the 80s away to Luton Town, being beaten 2-0 before Adrian Heath came off the bench to score twice to give us a replay.
Are my memories correct, guys?
22 Posted 19/02/2015 at 00:29:13
23 Posted 19/02/2015 at 00:48:39
24 Posted 19/02/2015 at 02:25:23
25 Posted 19/02/2015 at 03:20:44
Kone isn't spoiled anything. To get the most out of what's left of Kone's knee, Roberto has to be careful.
Nothing more to it than that.
26 Posted 19/02/2015 at 03:32:03
27 Posted 19/02/2015 at 05:57:25
28 Posted 19/02/2015 at 06:03:19
Coleman Jagielka Stones Garbutt
Besic Gibson Barkley Barry
4-4-2, don't risk McCarthy unless absolutely necessary.
Subs: Howard, Alcaraz, Browning, Oviedo, McCarthy, Naismith, Atsu
Coleman Stones Jagielka Oviedo
Lennon Besic McCarthy Naismith
Subs: Robles, Garbutt, Alcaraz, Gibson, Atsu, Barkley, Mirallas.
29 Posted 19/02/2015 at 06:24:05
Clarence, I salute your optimism, but I'm afraid I can't share it. We're just too fragile this season...
31 Posted 19/02/2015 at 08:32:15
It'll just be like them lot from across the park to get to the final, them jammy bastards... always come up smelling of roses. Laughable.
33 Posted 19/02/2015 at 09:21:44
Gibson on a plastic pitch, if he is protecting Kone, I doubt Gibson will be allowed off the plane....
34 Posted 19/02/2015 at 09:21:58
35 Posted 19/02/2015 at 09:55:37
Get the ball down and play. Get Kev out wide and on the ball as much as possible and feed Lukaku in the 12 yard box. Have McCarthy, Barry and Besic bossing the middle and another solid display from Stones and Jags.
A score draw will do me nicely and we can rip them a new one at Goodison!
36 Posted 19/02/2015 at 10:42:59
I expect a pathetic slow start, ponsing around like weÂre playing on an ice rink and leaving a mountain to overcome in the home leg and the lack of any pace or momentum in our game all season will render it a lost cause.
37 Posted 19/02/2015 at 10:42:16
For those optimistic enough to see us winning the trophy outright, 18/1 is available and 9/1 against reaching the final.
Place your bets!
38 Posted 19/02/2015 at 11:47:34
39 Posted 19/02/2015 at 12:03:50
40 Posted 19/02/2015 at 12:31:00
The only thing I would say is a slide tackle on a dry pitch still gives a nasty burn.
41 Posted 19/02/2015 at 12:45:45
I think we will get the following team tonight:
Coleman Stones Jagielka Oviedo
Naismith Barkley Mirallas
I would prefer to see this though:
Coleman Jagielka Stones Garbutt
Besic Barry McCarthy
Atsu Lukaku Mirallas
For me, Barkley has not been at his best so I'd leave him out. Play three DMs to allow the front three to do what they do best. I know Atsu has not been convincing but it seems he had a good Afcon so worth a punt in the absence of another true winger.
With Besic, McCarthy and Barry in the middle, we can really put pressure on the ball in the middle of the park. Plus going forward, Barry can drop in between the CBs and we play a 3-4-3 with Coleman and Garbutt providing width.
42 Posted 19/02/2015 at 13:37:05
43 Posted 19/02/2015 at 14:06:32
44 Posted 19/02/2015 at 14:25:43
45 Posted 19/02/2015 at 14:51:30
To get the most out of whats left of Kone's knee .Roberto has to be careful . Well I guess by leaving him on the bench and not playing him is the ultimate in being careful .
46 Posted 19/02/2015 at 14:55:59
This will be a difficult game but over the two legs I am sure we will prevail.
47 Posted 19/02/2015 at 14:55:10
Can we possibly win it? I don’t think so. To be honest the whole thing is a sick joke. The Champions League flops are waved in and while the CL is now down to the last 16 we are still at the 32 stage in the Europa. Why?
All this competion is for is to give the CL bums another chance to pick up silverware. There is hardly a mention of the Europa League in the media ubtill the Redshite and co drop in. What’s it all about ? You get knocked from one cup and allowed in to another because you are shite.This then
renders the EL as a farce.
I don’t really care what happens tonight. If we win, great. If not, I wont be launching the remote at the telly. It’s just not that important...The EL is Zenith Data of Europe. Remember that?
48 Posted 19/02/2015 at 15:01:09
49 Posted 19/02/2015 at 15:36:23
50 Posted 19/02/2015 at 16:09:37
Tonight’s referee has a reputation of being card happy. In his last five European games he’s shown 18 yellows and 3 reds. We are going to have to be very careful.
51 Posted 19/02/2015 at 16:11:59
52 Posted 19/02/2015 at 16:17:14
53 Posted 19/02/2015 at 16:28:01
We are in for at test tonight, no walk in the park or even walk on artificial surface. I believe we will get a draw tonight 1-1 and go through 1-0 at home
54 Posted 19/02/2015 at 16:36:03
Real makes the points we gave Hull etc. hurt more that we must first and foremost do all we can for the PL instead of going all in on Europa.
Sure would be great if the TV people and refs' dream final is us against the shites.
55 Posted 19/02/2015 at 16:46:59
That doesn't sound right does it?
56 Posted 19/02/2015 at 16:42:49
I've no idea as to how many times one of the late-stage entrants have won it but it is a totally misguided concept aimed at protecting 'the sacred few.'
No tears from me if we make an early exit. I won't even blame Roberto !
57 Posted 19/02/2015 at 16:49:50
But I still want us to win it - COYB
58 Posted 19/02/2015 at 16:55:34
59 Posted 19/02/2015 at 17:01:06
Admittedly it was early days but it was a shocker.
The bounce of the ball was staggering (you could finish a ciggy waiting for the bounced ball to come down).
Plus it just skidded and popped all over the show - horrible.
By the way, I wasn't playing at any high level, but when they put that surface down, you could book it for a game most days of the week, so 22 of us decided to book it, just to say we'd played on a 'proper' ground.
Anyway, off to the pub - up the Toffees!
60 Posted 19/02/2015 at 17:20:40
61 Posted 19/02/2015 at 17:10:57
How about next year the best 8 winners of the Europa league groups get promoted to the Champions League....seems fair !
62 Posted 19/02/2015 at 17:11:50
63 Posted 19/02/2015 at 17:36:10
Course it's worth it.
64 Posted 19/02/2015 at 17:48:17
65 Posted 19/02/2015 at 17:53:54
66 Posted 19/02/2015 at 20:15:20
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