After four European games, the Blues face their first fixture in the group stages. A trip to Italy to face Atalanta beckons for Ronald Koeman’s troops.
The Italians are no pushovers, a fourth place finish in Serie A last season for La Dea.
However they’ve suffered an indifferent start in the league this time around with one win and two defeats. Their first win came at the weekend, a 2-1 win against Sassuolo.
Coincidentally, the fixture is being played at Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium and it won’t be a walk in the park.
It’s a 23,717 seater stadium, 192 kilometres away from Atalanta’s home ground due to UEFA regulations not being met at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia
But knowing the passion of Italian supporters there is no doubt a hostile atmosphere will be created when the Blues come to town this Thursday evening.
There’s a damning stat that the manager will be eager to change – Everton are yet to pick up a competitive victory on Italian soil. Three games, three losses.
The loss of influential midfielder Franck Kessie to rivals AC Milan during the summer can’t have helped Atalanta.
But the signing of one of Middlesbrough’s very sporadic bright sparks from a relegation season, Marten de Roon, could prove to be a snip.
Captain and dynamic attacker Alejandro Gomez is one to watch for Atalanta. The Argentine has explosive pace and an eye for goal.
Standing at 5ft5, he’s not the biggest, but boy is he effective for the Italians.
9 – The number of dribbles completed by Alejandro Gomez so far in Serie A this season – more than any other player. Dancer. pic.twitter.com/e1n6qRjIlz
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) September 6, 2017
Thursday is a massive chance for Everton to get over the two major disappointments against Chelsea and Spurs respectively, and hopefully gain a bit of momentum before facing a formidable Manchester United side on Sunday.
Squad wise, the Blues are exactly the same as they were against Tottenham last weekend. Hopefully Koeman can use what he’s got more effectively than he did in that 3-0 home loss…
Early days, but victory is a necessity to both sides if either team want to fulfil their ambition of moving into the into the next round of the competition.
Up the Toffees.