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Halfway There: Everton in Europa League Group H

After the first three matches of the Europa League group stage, Everton sits in the lead. Let's take a look back at the short campaign and then look ahead to the rest of the club's matches.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Following Thursday's goalless draw in Lille, we have reached the midpoint of the 2014/2015 Europa League group stage. Unlike Everton's early premier league campaign which has seen the club stumble and sputter; the Blues have managed to hold the lead of group H with a record of 1-2-0. Currently Everton has a one point lead over second place Vfl Wolfsburg, a club the sole opponent that they have beaten in the competition.

P

W

D

L

F

A

GD

PTS

Everton

3

1

2

0

5

2

3

5

Vfl Wolfsburg

3

1

1

1

6

7

-1

4

Lille

3

0

3

0

2

2

0

3

Krasnodar

3

0

2

1

4

6

-2

2

That win against Wolfsburg was how Everton opened the competition on September 18th. The Blues played that match at home under their new UEFA mandated floodlights and beat the German club 4-1. A great way for the Toffees to return to play on the European stage. That match saw the club put out what I feel was their A-team lineup minus Ross Barkley who was out with the injury he suffered before the season began. For the next two matches of the group stage, Roberto Martinez shifted the squad in order to cope with injuries, rest some players and get others some European experience.

Next up, the club had to make the long journey to Russia to face FC Krasnodar on October 2nd. In what turned out to be an interesting match, Everton was able to narrowly escape with a 1-1 draw on a Samuel Eto'o strike in the 82nd minute. This match gave Evertonians cause for concern as the Russian side took the lead before the half and played much more aggressive than anticipated - taking eighteen shots to Everton's seven. With the road point secured and the longest trip of the group out of the way, the club was able to focus on their next opponent, Lille.

This week, Everton and a sizable contingent of supporters crossed the channel to take on Lille OSC of France's Ligue 1. The match up saw plenty of fireworks and some football played too. A win would have given Everton a commanding lead in the league but the match turned out to be a frustrating up and down meeting. The Blues dominated possession, holding the ball 56% of the time, but once again their opponent had double the amount of attempts - fourteen to seven. Luckily only three of those attempts were on target so Tim Howard did not have to work too hard. Lille's keeper on the other hand did have to offer up some effort while blocking several decent strikes. After the match Martinez expressed his frustration with the condition of the pitch, stating that it forced a change in the way that they executed their game plan. Aside from field conditions, the manager was happy with his club's draw.

That brings us up to date with the European competition. So what's next? On November 6th, Lille will travel to Goodison to kick off the second leg of the group stage. Don't expect any issues with the pitch in Merseyside but do expect the Blues to give it all they've got to obtain a crucial three points that would go a long way towards pushing them through to the knockout rounds. After that, they will take a jaunt over to Bavaria to take on Wolfsburg on November 27th with the hope that they can replicate their earlier success against Die Wölfe. The final match of the group stage will take place on December 11th when Krasnodar get to make the long trek to what should be a cold Goodison Park.

As always, Everton should shoot for a win in every match. Realistically, they are probably not going to pick up nine points in the remaining matches. If the club can keep their current form and pick up at least one win, they should be in good shape to move on as at least one more draw should also be in expected. The Blues have done well to get themselves into this position considering their Premier League struggles. With two of the three remaining matches on home turf, they should look to finish strong.

Let us know below how you feel about the Europa campaign so far and what you think is in store for the remaining matches.