Match PreviewEverton begin their group stage campaign in Italy against Atalanta hoping to use Europe as a springboard to launch their season.
Successive defeats against Chelsea and Tottenham without scoring a goal, coupled with a disappointing end to the transfer window, have taken the gloss off what began as a hugely promising summer but the Blues made it through the qualifying rounds of the Europa League fairly comfortably.
An away game against Serie A opposition is likely to pose an altogether more challenging contest, though, particularly for a side that has been struggling to create scoring chances.
Ronald Koeman's men meet Atalanta, last season's surprise package in Serie A having finished fourth - above Lazio, Milan, Inter and Fiorentina. That ensured a place in UEFA's secondary continental competition for the side from Bergamo.
However, the Toffees aren't heading to the city in Lombardy but rather the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia - the home of Sassuolo - to take on Atalanta on neutral territory.
Gian Piero Gasperini's side are being forced to pitch up 120 miles away from their own ground in European competition this term - for comparison, it's like the Toffees not being able to play at Goodison Park and having to use Coventry's Ricoh Arena instead.
Atalanta will play at the venue near Modena for so long as they remain in the Europa League as their home stadium — the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia — is currently being renovated.
Despite starting this season with two defeats, their most recent performance saw them claim a 2-1 win against Sassuolo which has seen them kick-start their campaign. Their form a year ago was no better with just two wins in their opening six league games, so if history is anything to go by, Atalanta are just getting started and Everton should be wary.
Their rise that saw many in Italian media call them the ‘new Leicester' has meant losing a few of their star players, with Andrea Conti and Franck Kessie joining AC Milan and Alessandro Bastoni joining the black-and-blue half of the city. With their two highest transfer spends this summer being the £12m signing of Marten de Roon from Middlesbrough and Timothy Castagne from Genk for £5m, it would be fair to suggest this Atalanta side isn't as strong as that of last season.
Ronald Koeman expects a difficult game but has said that Wayne Rooney will be part of the team.
Ronaldo Koeman is expected to offer his stars a chance at redemption by fielding a similar side to that which fell so short against Tottenham. Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are e expected to come into the line-up in an otherwise unchanged side. Rooney is also expected to play again despite playing the full 90 minutes on Saturday and expecting to start on the weekend.
Atalanta are expected to make a few changes despite an encouraging victory on the weekend. Rotation in goal and a Europa League debut for Castagne are the biggest headlines regarding Atalanta's XI. Mattia Caldara, Andreas Cornelius, Aaron Meijers and Remo Freuler are all expected to drop out of the line-up.
Predicted Line Ups
Atalanta: Berisha, Toloi, Palomino, Masiello, Hateboer, Freuler, Christante, Castagne, Kurtic, Petagna, Gomez.
Everton: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Williams, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Klaassen, Rooney, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin.