MFK Ružomberok vs Everton

Thursday, 3 August, 2017 0comments  |  Jump to last
Europa League Preview

Jordan Pickford is in line to make his first competitive start for Everton

Everton take their narrow 1-0 lead into the second leg of the Europa League Third Qualifying Round, second leg, hoping to finish the job in Ružomberok this evening.

Leighton Baines's deflected strike meant that the Blues edged their unfancied Slovakian opponents at Goodison Park a week ago but Ronald Koeman is confident that with another week of training under their belts, his charges will be more convincing than they were in the first game.

The Blues were somewhat lethargic in that first leg and struggled to impose themselves in a system that had Wayne Rooney as the focal point up front and newcomer Davy Klaassen driving from midfield alongside Idrissa Gueye.

All three are likely to start again in the second leg after Rooney was passed fit despite a minor groin problem but Sandro Ramirez, another debutant last Thursday, is set to make his first start in an Everton jersey after coming on to spark the Toffees into life midway through the second half.

Jordan Pickford, another of Koeman's summer signings, will make his debut appearance now that he has had the benefit of a further week of pre-season work, replacing Maarten Stekelenburg in goal.

Further changes beyond those could be dictated by the manager's chosen formation for the second leg, with some suggestions having been made in the media that the Dutchman has been mulling a five-man back line with three centre halves and two advanced fullbacks.

Baines would be the obvious candidate for the left-sided role and with James McCarthy seemingly out of favour based on last week's squad selection, Tom Davies could be tasked with playing on the right flank. Jonjoe Kenny, an obvious choice for many supporters, has not travelled with the squad as Koeman weighs up whether or not to send the youngster out on loan.

Ružomberok showed at times in the Goodison leg that they weren't overawed by their hosts and, bolstered by their second-leg success in the two previous rounds and spurred on by the obvious need to score, they are sure to be more adventurous this time around.

For Everton, having kept a clean sheet last Thursday, they will know that they could hand themselves a significant advantage with an away goal, particularly an early one that would draw the Slovakians out and create space in their half as they are forced to come forward in search of goals of their own.

As the superior side, the Blues remain the favourites to progress to the playoff round later this month but they can't rest on their laurels and expect to coast through. As Koeman has found out to his cost in this competition before, the job is there to be completed and that underdogs can bite.

Kick-off: 7.45pm BST, Thursday 3rd August, 2017
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Martina, Keane, Jagielka, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Klaassen, Mirallas, Rooney, Sandro


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