Europa Preview | Atalanta (A)

I’m pretty sure we still haven’t forgiven Everton for Saturday. In relationship terms, we still haven’t moved from the spare room back in to the big bed yet. But there’s no time to sulk, our curtain raiser in the Europa league group stages has arrived. Italy is the destination, Atalanta in the opposition.

In truth, the Europa league may serve as a welcome break from our domestic woes right now, just as it did three years ago under Martinez. Atalanta are coming into the game on the back of two domestic defeats and one 2-1 win which came on Sunday at home to Sassuolo. The outfit from Bergamo were very good last season, finishing 4th in Seria A. Their home form was key to their success, with somewhat ironically, a near on identical home record to Everton last season (Everton W12-D4-L3) (Atalanta W13-D4-L2)….I do love a good stat! The game though of course, is being played at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia on Thursday night, which is some two hours away from Bergamo. This could be a key factor in an away success for the Blues.

The star man last season for Atalanta was striker Papu Gomez, who netted 16 times and assisted 12 goals in all competitions. Some of you on Thursday may recognise former Middlesbrough midfielder Martin De Roon, who featured in the Premier League last season. Don’t worry, if you don’t remember him, he was largely shite and after just one season in England, has returned to Italy with Atalanta.

Like the rest of the Footballing world right now, Atalanta seemed to play a 3-4-2-1 formation. I have no idea what Everton will be lining up as because, well frankly I’m not even sure Koeman knows. Everton’s starting line-up this season has been very much like a night with a brass (so I’ve been told). It’s expensive, there’s plenty of good looking 10’s to choose from, you might be hitting the target, but ultimately you’re not finishing inside the goal. Saturday against Spurs may have been one of the worst performances since, well since Chelsea two weeks earlier. Two horrendous performances surely means that Koeman will need to change the set up Thursday. After all, Albert Einstein once famously said, ‘’The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. But then again, he married his cousin the wrongun, so who knows who to follow in this world. Right now though, his quote fits the narrative so it is staying.

Call me old fashioned, but I mourn the good old reliable 4-4-2. Sturdy, reliable and everybody is well drilled on it. On Thursday, I would like to see Pickford in goal, obviously, with a flat back four of Kenny (deserves a run in the side in place of faltering Martina), Jagielka (missed him on Saturday), Keane, Baines. A midfield of Lookman (another good game for the U23’s Sunday, scoring a great goal), Davies, Gueye and Sigurdsson. With Rooney behind Calvert-Lewin. You can chop and change personal on that how you see fit but for me that starting 11 is our best on current form. Simple formation and simple team selection. Any player who doesn’t perform can be replaced for Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford. With the likes of Ramirez, Klassan, Lennon, Mirallas, Schneriderlin, Vlasic, Williams and others available, surely Koeman can start making better use of the squad ‘depth’ at his disposal. Every game matters in the European group stages, so let’s start this campaign as we mean to go on, plenty of pints and most importantly points. Up the Toffees!

– David (@DAHughes92)