Atalanta vs Everton Preview: Blues looking for winning start in Europa League group stage

A preview of Everton’s trip to Italy to take on Atalanta in the Europa League.

Atalanta vs Everton Preview: Blues looking for winning start in Europa League group stage
Everton train at Citta del Tricolore on Wednesday night. Photo: Getty Images.

Everton begin their Europa League group stage campaign in Italy on Thursday evening, taking on Atalanta at Citta del Tricolore.

This will be the first ever meeting between Atalanta and Everton and the Italian sides first ever encounter with an English side.

The Toffees have lost all three of their away games in Italy without finding the net - losing 1-0 vs Inter Milan in the European Cup of 1963, 1-0 vs AC Milan in the UEFA Cup in 1975 and 2-0 against Fiorentina in 2008, also in the UEFA Cup.

Everton boss Ronald Koeman hasn’t managed in European competition, qualifying stages excluded, since the 2009/10 season with AZ Alkmaar in the Champions League, where the Dutch side were eliminated at the group stage.

He’ll be looking to better that this time around.

In Focus: Blues struggling to carve out an identity

Since making plenty of summer signings and a win on the opening day of the Premier League season, Everton have faltered.

Getting results in the Europa League has been their respite so far but the Blues are still looking to carve out an identity for this season.

Last season, Koeman was able to lean on the failings of the previous regime in the early months before shaping the team in his mold but now, this is his team with his stamp. It has to be better.

Everton were handed an extremely difficult start to the domestic campaign but performances haven’t been up to the standard expected of a team that is hoping to compete near the top of the Premier League table.

Against Tottenham Hotspur, the Blues had been chasing shadows at times - completely outclassed at home and whilst the result may have been expected and predicted, the dismal performance that led to it wasn’t.

Once again, the Blues have the Europa League as a distraction away from the Premier League but it is also a platform to fix their evident problems ahead of Sunday’s trip to Manchester United.

 

A look at: Atalanta

Atalanta are competing in European competition for the first time since the 1990/91 campaign when they played in the UEFA Cup and reached the quarter-final.

Despite their limited action in Europe, Atalanta have lost just one of their 10 home games in European competitions, winning six wins and draw the other three.

Everton will be the first time the Orobici have faced English opposition. They have faced off against British opponents once before, facing Merthyr Tydfil in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987/88. Atalanta eliminated the Welsh side 3-2 on aggregate.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side picked up their first Serie A win of the season at the weekend, beating Sassuolo 2-1 thanks to goals from Andreas Cornelius and Andrea Petagna. The Italian boss had been on the verge of dismissal last season but after a number of changes, helped guide his side to a fourth place finish in Serie A to secure their place back in Europe.

Gasperini’s team work hard and are well organized but have been susceptible to collapsing during the early part of this season.

La Dea led away at Napoli during the second game of the season but after finding themselves 2-1 down just after half time, struggled to regain a footing in the game before conceding a third on their way to ultimately losing 3-1.

Atalanta will present a tough test for Koeman’s side despite their indifferent start to the campaign.

 

Probable line-ups

Atalanta: Berisha, Toloi, Masiello, Caldara, Mancini Freuler, Melegoni, Kurtic, Gomez, Vido and Petagna.

Everton: Pickford, Martina, Keane, Jagielka, Baines, Gueye, Davies, Klaassen, Rooney, Sigurdsson and Calvert-Lewin.

Match Day Stats:

1. Everton have faced Italian opposition on six previous occasions (W1 D2 L3), scoring in just one of those games – a 2-0 win in March 2008 at Goodison Park against Fiorentina.

2. In European competition, English sides have lost nine of their last 13 visits to Italy - Two wins, Two draws and Nine losses.

3. Everton have lost just two European matches in September, 10 wins, seven draws.