MFK Ružomberok v Everton

A week after the Toffees took on Slovakian side Ružomberok at the Grand Old Lady, the two sides lock horns all over again.

The prize for the overall victors – a place in Friday’s Europa League play off draw.

Everton take a 1-0 lead to the Štadión pod Čebrat’om, which will be filled to its 4,876 capacity, for the second leg of this Europa League third qualifying round.

Fitness seemed to be the real issue last Thursday.

It was Ružomberok’s sixth competitive game of their season and it showed.

A little more quality in their side and the Blues might have been in a lot of trouble, Ružomberok have subsequently played their seventh competitive fixture, a comfortable 4-0 league thrashing of FK Senica.

A fine Maarten Stekelenburg stop spared Everton’s blushes in the first leg, other than that, the visitors didn’t really threaten except a few set pieces here and there. This is something the defence will have to be wary of on Thursday night.

So a full week away from any sort of match action, just Jan Kluitenberg putting the squad through their paces, news that’ll be welcomed with both arms, crucial before the big one.

The real worry is Ružomberok have fought back from two first leg defeats so far in the competition.

So Ronald Koeman has to be cautious the Ruže don’t make it a hat trick of overturning a seemly lost cause.

The squad of players is the same as the first time around, thankfully still no nightmare injuries to report…

Evertonians will be hoping for more of a Wayne Rooney impact this time, with a few sparks of quality from fellow new boy Davy Klaassen a huge positive.

But the man who impressed most on a typical British-summer’s night at Goodison was Sandro Ramirez.

The speed and movement of the former Barcelona man changed the tie for the better, it’s clear to see a lack of pace a clear problem in Koeman’s side.

The Spaniard will be hoping for his first competitive start – and as you can see, he’s fast becoming a fans’ favourite.

So the pathway to the play off round is clear. An away goal could be so crucial for the blues – it could kill the home side off. A whole season of European football beckons, let’s just hope Everton don’t do an Everton.

Up the Toffees.

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