February 19, 2015 6:00 pm BST, 1:00 pm EST
TV Info - Live Soccer TV
Referee - Aleksei Kulbakov
Assistant Referees - Dmitri Zhuk and Vitali Malyutin
Additional Assistant Referees - Sergei Tsinkevich and Denis Scherbakov
Fourth Official - Oleg Maslyanko
While Evertonians have been dealing with week after week of disappointing play and mid-table mediocrity, it is understandable that they have forgotten that Everton is in the Europa League. Not only are they in the Europa League but they won what was arguably one of the most difficult groups of the group stage and did it handily. So turn that frown upside down and get excited for Thursday’s game against BSC Young Boys of the Swiss Super League.
Everton are likely to be without Leighton Baines on Thursday as he continues to recover from a knee injury. Will Luke Garbutt see the 18 this time around or will Bryan Ovideo start at left back again? Tony Hibbert and Aiden McGeady are also listed as doubtful, meaning Everton will somewhat shorthanded for their Round of 32 match-up. Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar continue to be sidelined with long-term injuries though may be back soon having recently played for the team's under-21 side.
Update: Reports have surfaced that Leon Osman may make his return to first team action tomorrow. More updates to follow.
If you’d like a quick rundown of BSC Young Boys, I would suggest going here where we did a brief rundown of our upcoming opponents. It would be easy to assume that being matched up with a Swiss team would be relatively easy match-up for the Toffees. Well Young Boys are currently second in their domestic league and have been in very good form as of late, having not lost a game in their past five matches. The Swiss club is also fresh off of their winter break meaning they will have fresh legs going into this match.
What to Watch For
Roberto Martinez will need to use caution when selecting his squad for this match. The Toffees are set to take on Leicester City on Sunday meaning the squad will be playing on short rest. This does not mean that Martinez should trot out a starting XI of youngsters and just call it a day. The Europa League remains the final opportunity for Everton to get into the Champions League next season and I think Everton should not squander that opportunity. I would expect a mixture of regular starters and a handful of bench players to populate the starting XI.
Christian Atsu, the much maligned on-loan winger needs to start on Thursday. He may have been nothing short of a disappointment so far this season, but it would be unwise to waste a player that is currently in the best form he has been in all season. Atsu was brilliant for Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations and should be given at least one more chance to show that he can put it together at the club level. I’m not saying make him the starter at wing on a weekly basis, but in a game where Martinez needs to rest a starter or two, Atsu should be considered for a start.
The somewhat weird debate of Tim Howard or Joel Robles will likely continue going into this match and I honestly don't understand the argument. Full disclosure here, I am an unabashed Tim Howard fan, but I still don't see how people can rate Robles higher than Howard. People were not exactly enthused when Robles initially had to start at keeper during Howard's time off from injury, and now it seems as though everyone is a fan of the Spanish keeper. If Martinez wants to give Howard a rest because the team has two games so close together, that's fine, but going forward Howard has earned the right to be the team's first choice keeper.
The Final Word
Everton may be struggling in the Premier League, but they have put together a wonderful European campaign thus far and I expect it to continue. The team is almost back at full strength after suffering numerous injuries and I firmly believe they have the depth to compete in Europe and domestically. I'm sure the Toffees are looking to show that they belong in the Europa League and will try to make every effort to win. That run starts against Young Boys and it will be key that they get some crucial away goals in this week's match.