Hajduk Split (1st Leg) – Europa Preview
A midweek European fixture under the lights. Fucking yes! The blues meet Croatian outfit Hajduk Split on Thursday night in their first leg home tie of the Europa League final round qualifier. Once again it seems Liverpool have cashed in a few more devil chips in obtaining all the second leg home ties in this city, meaning the Blues will be playing to take strong lead and clean sheet to Croatia in a weeks’ time.
I couldn’t go any further without a quick mention for the imminent arrival of our Icelandic Prince Gylfi Sigurdsson. Our regular readers so far this season (all three of you…two if you don’t include me) will note I have been worried whether this one would get over the line and even questioned whether maybe the Blues should turn their attentions elsewhere, but luckily the club have stuck with this one and the deal has finally been agreed in the sum of £45 million. We were never worried really were we? Wrong! We should be, because the deal hasn’t been announced yet and who knows were Clifford Finch is hanging round these days? That is assuming he is still alive, if not? Well then, this deal might just get the green light. If you haven’t heard the famous story, Clifford Finch, former Everton director, back in 1996 notoriously advised Nigel Martyn he was too busy to meet him at Goodison Park to discuss a potential deal, and instead once hearing Leeds had matched Everton’s offer, gave Martyn directions to Leeds from Mersyeside! Ah the 90’s… Anyway, a goal scorer, set piece wizard and assist king, just what we needed. Welcome Gylfi!
Right, Hajduk Split seem like much more stern opposition then are previous Europa League opponents. They qualified by finishing 3rd in the Croatian league last year. They are managed by former Espanyol coach Joan Carrillo. The Spaniard has been in charge for a year and often seems to favour slight variations of a 4-5-1 formation, playing often narrow down the pitch. Split will be missing their star striker Marko Futacs, who will be out of action until March 2018. The Hungarian netted 18 goals in 26 league games last season and it will certainly give a boost to the Blues to see him side lined. Keep an eye out for the Hajduk Split Ultras in the lower Bullens Road Thursday night, they seem a lively bunch and should give some interesting entertainment throughout the game.
Everton go into the game still unbeaten throughout pre-season and in their opening competitive fixtures. Koeman admitted playing Calvert-Lewin as a make shift wing-back didn’t go to plan. Reading between the lines it looks like Koeman will be starting with a traditional back four, and personally I think it would be great to see Davies start over one of either Schneiderlin or Gueye in the middle. Both are fantastic players but sometimes playing both against opposition coming to defend cuts out some of that much-needed creativity that Davies can bring to break these teams down. It will most likely be a tossup between Sandro, Calvert-Lewin and Mirallas to complete a front three trio along with Klaassen and Rooney.
The season started Saturday with a win, but the real hard work starts here. This is the opening fixture to a really difficult run of games, the squad needs momentum and this club needs the European platform it worked hard for to secure last season. Let’s get through these final two qualifying games and start planning some more jollies around Europe.
Come on you blues!