Europa Preview| Apollon Limassol

The battle to conquer Europe continues, this time its Cypriot outfit Apollon Limassol coming to town. A few weeks ago, our relationship with Everton was on the rocks. We were sleeping in the spare room, we weren’t speaking at breakfast, we were both checking our Whatsapp throughout the day to see when the other was last online, but we refused to be the first to text.

Since then, the Toffees have won two home games back to back, scoring five goals and conceding just once. Swiftly the relationship isn’t feeling so bad. We are back in the big bed. Things are feeling a little rosier again.

With a horror show in Italy still fresh in the memory, it’s vital Everton continue their recent resurrection of form and get three points on the board, in arguably their easiest fixture in their group (on paper anyway). It’s the first time Everton have ever met Apollon Limassol in a competitive fixture, indeed its’ Everton’s first ever game against Cypriot opposition. Limassol have embarked on the shores of the Mersey before though. Back in the 1992-93 they played Liverpool in the Cup Winners Cup. They lost both legs, which included a hammering at Anfield 6-1. I’d settle for a repeat of that score line.

Home form seems to be key, Everton have won their last four European home fixtures. We have two strikers in Calvert Lewin and Niasse who have scored five goals in the last two games. Sadly, Niasse, who scored his three goals in just under 50 minutes of Football, is ineligible for Europa League games, having not been included in Everton’s Europa League squad in pre-season. With hindsight this decision seems a disaster, but not even the hardiest of Niasse’s believers (me being one of them) could have predicted his turn around at the club over these last few weeks.

So, the good news is, although it’s forced, Niasse is rested for Burnley. After an impressive performance last week against Sunderland, I expect (well hope) Everton should play a similar team. On Saturday against Bournemouth, with the return of Rooney and co, the team looked slower, play wasn’t as slick and at times we looked out of ideas. Thankfully for us, Niasse and Davies came on in the second half to save the day. On the contrary, three days before against Sunderland, there was a solid mix of pace and youth and the team were linking up very well, playing some of the best Football all season.

Keane is still out with a foot injury; therefore, we can expect to see another start for Stekelenburg, with Williams, Holgate and Jagielka at the back. Joined by Kenny and Baines in the wing back positions. Davies should warrant his place back in the team after Saturday, with Klaassen (he WILL come good) and maybe Besic (resting Schnerderlin and Gueye for the weekend). Up top I would like to see Vlasic given another run out following his impressive early form, and Sandro/Lookman supporting Calvert-Lewin.

Despite this being the easiest game on paper, Limassol held potential group favourites Lyon to a 1-1 draw in Cyprus a few weeks ago. They are unbeaten in six, albeit only winning one, but will certainly come to put up a fight. Let’s hope the Toffees turn up, continue their good form and get a much-needed European win. Come on you blues.

– David (@DAHughes92)