So... this season isn’t exactly off to a roaring start. We certainly had hoped for better showings even if the results haven’t been a shock given our competition. However, this week we get a chance to start with a clean slate as we open our UEFA Europa League group stage campaign.
Our UEL group is tricky, there’s no doubting that, but no one in our group represents anything close to the competition we have seen the last three rounds of our own domestic league. Atalanta, our opponents this coming Thursday, may have acquitted themselves very well in Serie A last campaign but big money departures of Andrea Conti and Franck Kessie, both to fellow Italian (and Europa League) club AC Milan, have left this side a bit like the abominable snowman without his ‘chompers’.
Atalanta has seen one win in their first three games, and while they should not be taken lightly, this is a team we should beat.
Our ever reliable and underappreciated left back, the venerable Leighton Baines, shared his thoughts on the upcoming matchup in Italy and how it compared to playing in the EPL:
"It is a different kind of test. Games in Europe always have a different feel. We have started our preparations now and on Tuesday we will get more of an idea of what kind of side Atalanta are.
"We’ll do our homework and make sure we look at their system and the players that they have got."
This sort of quick turnaround is always especially difficult for away teams, and we will be relying on our superior quality to see us through a tough environment at the small but cagey Stadio Città del Tricolore.
The team’s preparations mirror our lives here as fans, as we spent all Monday reviewing what has gone wrong with the weekend, but time is short to gear up for what comes next:
"It is an opportunity for us to move on and move forward. It was far from what we want at the weekend but we get a short window now to address it, then analyse and prepare for the next one. That’s what we are doing now."
Some have wanted to panic after the result against Spurs, others have called for calm. At any rate, the Europa League represents one of the better opportunities Everton have had for serious silverware in a long time, and a berth in next year’s UEFA Champions League awaits whoever can finish this competition as winners.
Thursday is but a first step towards that glory. Let’s win our group then take the knockouts as they come.