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Lyon looking to snuff out Everton’s lingering European hopes

The Toffees likely need three wins from three to have any chance of reaching the knockout stages - but even one victory looks a tall order at the moment

Everton FC v Olympique Lyon - UEFA Europa League Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

After another bruising week in the life of Evertonians, attention once again turns to Europe and the Toffees’ rapidly diminishing European hopes.

Everton still have a chance of reaching the knockout stages - as this articles shows - but it would take a remarkable set of results and a revolution in form in order for it to happen.

Last month’s home defeat to Lyon all but ended our chances of playing European football in the new year, and indeed meant Everton had made the worst ever start to a Europa League group by an English team.

Since then Everton have dispensed with Ronald Koeman but two further defeats suggests little has changed.

The Leicester defeat in-particular was a huge disappointment, especially in the first half.

David Unsworth did his best to try and change things around but the reality is, whoever is in the dugout still has to deal with a slow, ponderous defence, ill-balanced midfield and blunt attack.

It is a horrific combination and one that does little to counter the argument that Everton could be in serious trouble this season.

Some errors can be corrected in the January window but that is still two months away and there’s a lot of football to be played before then.

With the league position so critical then, does that mean Sunday’s game with Watford should take precedence over Thursday?

It is a difficult balancing act Unsworth, who will not want to be seen to be giving up on Everton’s European hopes so easily.

However, with the damage already done in Europe he knows a win in the Premier League is important.

Conversely, with morale so low, any sort of result right now is needed to try and rebuild the team’s shattered confidence. What sort of mindset will the team be in on Sunday if they get hammered 5-0 in France?

It’s a fairly ugly situation and an unenviable one for a relatively inexperienced coach such as Unsworth, who knows this may well be his best ever chance of taking the job full time.

The opposition

Lyon’s form was patchy going into the meeting at Goodison last month, with just one win in six games.

However, since their victory on Merseyside Bruno Génésio’s side have won both their league games without conceding a goal.

They also have a formidable record at home, losing just three times this calendar year.

Their last defeat was against eventual champions Monaco in April, with Les Gones winning five and drawing three of their eight home games this season in all competitions.

Good luck Unsy.

Team news

Wayne Rooney, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka all miss out after being left at home by Unsworth. Ashley Williams will captain the side in the absence of the experienced trio.

Michael Keane is also still missing as he continues to recover from an infection in a foot injury. Academy defender Morgan Feeney is in the squad but is likely to start on the bench

Predicted starting XI

Pickford, Martina, Williams, Holgate, Kenny, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Vlasic, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Calvert-Lewin.

Final word

This was always going to be Everton’s toughest European assignment (on paper at least) but their recent form makes in even more imposing.

They can’t seem to buy a win at the moment so any sort of result to provide a slither of positivity would be most welcome.

Unsworth insists he is going for the win despite leaving three of his most experienced players at home.

But I can’t help but thinking Sunday’s game carries more significance and will eclipse whatever happens in France on Thursday.