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Hajduk Split vs Everton - Europa League

on Thu 24 Aug 2017, 12:56 pm
Match Preview from Toffeeweb

Everton's hopes of qualifying for the group stage of the Europa League and guaranteeing their involvement in the competition until at least December rest on their ability to protect a two-goal first leg advantage in Split this evening.

Ronald Koeman lamented his side's inability to pad the 2-0 lead they had established over Hajduk by half time in the first leg but he knows that a disciplined display and the kind of defensive solidity that has been a characteristic of their season so far should see them through.

Once again, the Dutchman won't be able to call on Sandro Ramirez who continues to battle a heel injury and is therefore a doubt for Sunday's trip to Chelsea as well.

Another new signing, Davy Klaassen, has also stayed behind on Merseyside after picking up a knock in Monday evening's 1-1 draw at Manchester City. James McCarthy, a potential deputy for the former Ajax man, is also ruled out, with Koeman not expecting to see him back in contention for a place until after the upcoming international break… that is assuming he isn't thrown back into action prematurely again by Martin O'Neill.

The rest of the squad should remain unchanged, although Jonjoe Kenny joined the first-team on the plane to Croatia offering another back-up option at right back.

How Koeman approaches the game, both in the context of containing tonight's opponents but also with another tough away assignment in the Premier Leaque just three days later, will be interesting. Sandro's absence means that both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Wayne Rooney could end up playing three times in the space of a week leading the line.

Idrissa Gueye, meanwhile, will likely be called upon to do the same, with the added responsibility of partially covering for Morgan Schneiderlin on Sunday given the Frenchman's suspension and importance in defensive midfield.

It opens an opportunity for Mohamed Basic, perhaps this evening against Split, while the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Ademola Lookman will be hoping to get a look in after being overlooked at the Etihad on Monday. And will Gylfi Sigurdsson be deemed fit enough to make his first start or will he be kept in reserve for Stamford Bridge?

Hajduk, who have lost only one of their last nine home games in European competition, showed in the first leg that they can be accomplished in moving the ball around and are comfortable in possession to a much greater degree than was the case with Ružomberok in the previous round.

In Hamza Barry they have an industrious midfielder who looked to cause the Blues problems at Goodison last week but they will be without the injured Franck Ohandza, himself a deputy for main target man, Márkó Futács. His replacement, Ahmed Said, helped himself to a hat-trick in Hajduk's 4-0 win over Rues this weekend, however.

The key for Everton will be remaining patient and keeping the ball as long as possible to manage the clock, control the tempo and frustrate their hosts in what promises to be an intimidating atmosphere inside Stadion Poljud.

Kick off: 8pm, Thursday 24 August, 2017
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Williams, Baines, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Davies, Rooney, Mirallas, Calvert-Lewin

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