Everton Football Club will make their return to European competition next week against MFK Ruzomberok after the Slovakian club won the second leg of their second round qualifier, over Norway’s SK Brann. The tie finished 2-1 on aggregate.
The first leg of the third qualifying round will be held at Goodison Park on July 27, with the away portion hosted by Ruzomberok on August 3.
MFK Ružomberok finished 3rd in the Fortuna Liga last year, earning them a spot in the Europa League’s first round, where they beat FK Vojvodina from Serbia. Ružomberok’s last appearance in Europe was the 2006-07 Champions League, where they fell to Russian side CSKA Moscow during the qualifying matches.
The club from Slovakia play their home games at the Štadión pod Čebraťom. With a capacity of 4,876, the ground was constructed in 1955.
The Slovaks lined up in a 4-3-3 formation for the away leg at Brann in the previous round, with goals by midfielder Kristi Qose from a corner and a penalty by captain and defender Dominik Kružliak.
Speaking after the draw that pitted the winners of the tie against Everton, the Slovak manager Norbert Hrnčár stated he had an added incentive to play the Blues as he was a Liverpool fan.
Expect Ronald Koeman to field a full strength Everton side, particularly in the first leg with all to play for. Smaller sides from far-flung European outposts are not to be underestimated, as West Ham learned last season in a similar scenario against Romanian outfit Astra Giurgiu.
Jordan Pickford and Sandro Ramirez may well be fit in time to make their competitive debuts in this game, while it’s almost assured that the likes of Davy Klaassen, Wayne Rooney, and Michael Keane will feature.
Whatever happens, one thing’s for sure - it’s great to have European nights back on the Blue side of the Mersey once again.