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Everton's Europa League schedule analysis

Is it really the group of death?

Stade Pierre-Mauroy - home of Lille
Stade Pierre-Mauroy - home of Lille
Harry Engels

The overwhelming opinion in the media is that Everton have been dealt a tough draw in the Europa League having been picked to play Lille, Wolfsburg and FC Krasnodar.

However, given Everton were in pot three for the draw they were always going to face some established European sides and things could have been worse.

The likes of Inter Milan, Sevilla, Villarreal, PSV, Fiorentina and Napoli were potential opponents from pot one, so Lille is not a bad draw to have.

That doesn't mean they shouldn't be respected, though much of their 2011 title winning team have left they have been regulars in Europe - including the Champions League - over recent seasons.

They also have a guaranteed goalscorer is Divock Origi, who is on a season-long loan from Liverpool.

Bundesliga side Wolfsburg is another mouth-watering tie for the fans to look forward to. Most of the sides in pot two were of a similar standard, including Standard Liege and Club Brugge, so it was always going to be tough. Everton must be pleased though to have avoided tricky trips to the likes of Dnipro, Besiktas and Panathinaikos.

What is key about those two teams though is the fact they are not too far to travel. One of the toughest aspects of dealing with the Europa League is the arduous journeys to far flung European outposts so to have two shorts trips to France and Germany is a real bonus - for players and supporters.

That is obviously offset by the presence of FC Krasnodar as the final team in Group H. The club is based in south-west Russia, not far from the Black Sea and also close to the troubled Crimea region.

That will obviously cause some difficulty logistically when it comes to traveling out to Russia, with direct flights rare. Those who fly to Moscow will then face a 20 hour journey by car to the Kubin Stadium.

They should not be underestimated on the pitch either. Krasnodar beat Real Sociedad to qualify for the Europa League and are seen by many as one of the toughest sides Everton could have drawn in pot four.

Given the instability in the region the tie may well be moved, but we will of course keep you updated if that should happen. If so that should play into Everton's hands, though don't expect the game to be moved too far from Eastern Europe.

All six fixtures of course, which will represent the first time we have played all three sides in a competitive game, nestle nicely among Everton's Premier League ties and suddenly make the club's autumn schedule look very busy indeed.

After each home game the fixture list has been relatively kind, with home games against Crystal Palace and QPR as well as a trip to Sunderland.

It is after the long away trips though that the energy sapping Europa League can really make an impact and may well have an adverse effect on our domestic performances.

In the space of 13 days between September 27 and October 5, Everton face four away games - against Swansea in the Capital One Cup, Liverpool at Anfield, Krasnodar in Russia and Manchester United at Old Trafford.

It is a punishing schedule and one that will take some careful planning by Roberto Martinez. Expect a weakened side to play at Swansea while I would also consider leaving some senior players at home for the Krasnodar game in order to rest after the derby and prepare for Man Utd. The one plus about playing in Krasonodar is October is that the freezing Russian winter will not have set in by then.

Thankfully the rest of the fixture list isn't too punishing, with newly promoted Burnley hosting the Blues three days after the short hop over the Channel to Lille on October 23.

Everton travel to Tottenham on November 27 three days after the game at Wolfsburg, though Spurs will have also been in action that night against Partisan at home, meaning they may well be just as jaded as us.

Having our first game at home in September and playing the lowest ranked side, Krasnodar, at home in the final game may also be beneficial.

All in all I think Everton can be satisfied with the draw. It was always going to be tough given Everton's low co-efficient so the risk was landing tough ties in far away places. Given Krasnoadar is the only long away trip the Blues have escaped lightly.

We also wanted some big European nights so games against Lille and Wolfsburg - teams with recent Champions league experience - will be fantastic for the fans and a valuable learning curve for the players.

They will not have wanted to draw us in their group either as were certainly one of the strongest sides in pot three. Throw in the relative unknown of Krasnodar and I think you have one of the most unpredictable and compelling groups in the whole competition.

It's good to be back!