Sure it’s one of the most over-used but much-loved phrases in British football, but who doesn’t love football under the floodlights. And it’s back back back. That too with European football and one of the best teams in the tournament in a strong Group H, Wolfsburg. Oh, and at Goodison, does it get any better?
A strong Everton team are ready for this challenge, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see an almost first choice eleven start this opening game. In all the pre-match press Roberto Martinez has been talking up the teams chances. Fitness-wise it’s still Bryan Oviedo, Arouna Kone, Steven Pienaar, and Ross Barkley that are missing, but Samuel Eto’o looks likely to be fit and may start, and Sylvain Distin will be a late check.
Despite a sluggish start to the season for the German team they’re strong in almost every department. Backed by motor giants Volkswagen they’ve spent plenty of money over the last few years. That means that the slightly laughable Nicklas Bendtner and aging Ivica Olic are backed up by a cast of quality internationals: goalkeeper-captain Diego Benaglio and LB Ricardo Rodriguez are Switzerland international players. Josuha Guilavogui and Junior Malanda have been in the international youth setups for France and Belgium respectively. Ivan Perisic has played alongside Olic for Croatia. Kevin De Bruyne plays for Belgium while Luis Gustavo featured prominently for Brazil.
What To Watch For
The battle of the big men, Naldo at the back for Wolfsburg and Romelu Lukaku at the top for Everton, will be fascinating to watch. The big Brazilian is influential in keeping their defence together and is a threat from set pieces, so the battle against the Everton number 10 will be important at both ends.
Also important in all areas of the pitch will be how Everton deal with Belgian midfield dynamo De Bruyne, and Croatian schemer Perisic, if the latter recovers from injury. The Belgian midfielder can play in many positions and prospered in the World Cup exploiting gaps in the centre of the park and between the fullbacks and centre backs. Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, and the two central players will need to be aware of De Bruyne’s presence and movement, he’s a much better player than the one that ever appeared in the Premier League. Whilst Perisic can perform a similar role, he also plays in the number 10 role, working the lines between midfield and attack, so the potential battle between him and the wily Gareth Barry, or the feral Muhamed Besic, will be worth keeping an eye on.
Finally in the heart of the midfield bionic man James McCarthy will have a vital role in closing down the ball playing midfield of the German team. One of the men thrashed in the World Cup Semi Final, Gustavo usually starts things off from his position at the base of midfield, where Steven Naismith and his amazing work rate will be needed. Gustavo has appeared traumatized so far after this summer's hiding at Germany's hand, so expect Everton to continue to try victimizing him.
Everton’s biggest win and loss in Europe came under David Moyes (6-1 vs SK Brann in 2008, 0-5 vs SL Benfica in 2009)
Tony Hibbert has the most European appearances for any Everton player (20 appearances)
Everton’s last European game finished in a 0-3 defeat to Sporting Lisbon in 2010.
This is the first time Everton and Wolfsburg have faced each other in European competition.
The Blues did lose to the Wolves 2-0 in the 2009-10 preseason, when Wolfsburg were League champions.
Everton have never lost against a German team in European football, with two wins and three draws previously.