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Everton face a tough test on and off the pitch against Hajduk Split

The Toffees take a 2-0 lead to Croatia in the second leg of their Europa League play-off, but much of the attention will be focused on what’s happening in the stands.

GNK Dinamo Zagreb v HNK Hadjuk Split - Prva HNL Liga Photo by Damir Sencar/EuroFootball/Getty Images

A professional job is needed by Everton against Hajduk Split in order to secure their place in the group stage of the Europa League - though a lot of the attention will be focused on matters off the pitch.

The trouble caused by a section of Hajduk fans during last week’s first leg has understandably caused concern in the build-up to this game.

The behaviour of Hajduk’s Torcida ultras prompted Everton to issue a series of warnings to any Toffees supporters attending Thursday’s match.

Everton have warned travelling fans not to display club colours of flags before or after the game, something you become accustomed to seeing during European away days.

There is also a designated fanzone in place for fans to congregate before the match and free shuttle buses to the ground in an attempt to ensure supporter safety.

It’s a shame that the build-up to this match is being tarnished by such issues as Hajduk Split are a fascinating club with a long and unique history - as detailed in Brian’s fantastic preview article.

Sadly the minority are spoiling it for the many and Evertonians heading out to Croatia will have to be vigilant before, during and after the game.

Back to matters on the pitch and this match represents the third of a tricky quartet of games in quick succession before the international break.

Last week’s first leg was followed up by a gutsy performance at Man City that yielded a well deserved point.

Everton FC v Hajduk Split - UEFA Europa League Qualifying Play-Offs Round: First Leg Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Having just 72 hours between that game and the match with Split is not ideal, especially when you consider Chelsea await at Stamford Bridge 72 hours after that.

But if Everton want to progress as a club then they need to get used to competing on multiple fronts and playing lots of matches.

The two goal cushion will certainly help on Thursday and there’s no doubt Everton are the better team from what we witnessed during the first leg.

But with a boisterous crowd behind them Split are likely to be much more of a threat, meaning the Toffees will have to take this game seriously.

Team news

Everton will be without Davy Klaassen due to a foot injury while Sandro Ramirez has not yet recovered from a heel problem that saw him miss the trip to Man City on Monday.

Gylfi Sigurdsson made his debut from the substitutes bench at the Etihad Stadium but Ronald Koeman has yet to decide whether he is fit enough to start on Thursday.

James McCarthy is also out with a knee injury that is likely to keep him out until after the international break.

Predicted starting XI

Pickford, Baines, Williams, Jagielka, Keane, Martina, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Mirallas, Lookman, Rooney.

Final word

The first goal is likely to be very important at the Stadion Poljud on Thursday. If Everton go ahead then the tie will be as good as finished, fall behind and the momentum may start to swing on the other direction.

Given the negativity surrounding the trip it’s a game Everton will just want to get out of the way unscathed.

A drab goalless draw will be enough to see them though, but I’m hopeful they are good enough to secure the victory and make it a much more comfortable night for all concerned.