Atalanta vs Everton: Europa League match preview, likely line-ups and score prediction
Ronald Koeman’s Everton side will line-up in the Europa League group-stages for the first time in three years when they take the trip to Italy to face up to Serie A side Atalanta on Thursday evening.
On that occasion the Toffees made it to the round of 16 before falling short against Ukrainian side Dynamo Kiev, and they will no doubt want to take a step closer to the knock-outs with a victory first-up.
By contrast, Atalanta will be taking part in European competition for the first time in 26 years following their shock fourth-place finish last season, finishing above the likes of Inter, AC Milan and Lazio.
After starting the season in promising fashion after an opening day win over Stoke City, Koeman’s side have found it tough going in recent clashes with title-chasing Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.
They were unfortunate not to come away with three points from the Etihad but their previous two fixtures against the London sides have been uninspiring to say the least, offering limited resistance.
Their fortunes have been slightly better on a European front, easing past Slovakian minnows MFK Ruzomberok before seeing off Croatian team Hajduk Split to secure their spot in the group-stages.
On the other side, the hosts have had an equally inconsistent start to the Serie A season, falling to consecutive defeats to Roma and Napoli before claiming their first victory on Sunday over Sassuolo.
There doesn’t appear to be any fresh injury concerns for the visitors after Saturday’s limp defeat to Tottenham, with Koeman having a full squad at his disposal as he looks to re-find a winning formula.
The only men unavailable are the long-term absentees James McCarthy, Yannick Bolasie, Seamus Coleman, Ramiro Funes-Mori and Ross Barkley, whilst Oumar Niasse is not in the 27-strong squad.
The Dutchman could ring the changes for Thursday night through, with Mason Holgate, Ademola Lookman, Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all in contention for a first proper European start.
Atalanta are expected to continue with their 3-4-3 formation as they go in search of a first victory in European competition since 1991, with ex-Middlesbrough midfielder Marten de Roon in-line for a start.
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Match Prediction: Atalanta 1-0 Everton
Whilst most people will no doubt need to take to Google to try and find out just who on earth Everton’s opponents are on Thursday, Atalanta will provide a real stern test of the Toffees’ European credentials.
They were Serie A’s surprise package last season, finishing convincingly in fourth place in the end, and they secured victories both home and away against Napoli before holding Juventus and Roma to draws.
The Italians don’t concede many goals at home – letting in just 18 goals in 19 matches last year – and with Everton struggling to find the net recently it could be a tough and equally frustrating evening in Italy.
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