In a week where Wayne Rooney has quit international football to focus on Everton, that focus must now shift to making sure his boyhood club reach the group stage of the Europa League. It is a job half done after a first leg home win but tonight they must make sure that they complete the task when facing Hadjuk Split once again.
The first leg at Goodison Park was arguably more remembered by the behaviour of the traveling Hadjuk Split who managed to get the game momentarily postponed due to goings on in the away end of the ground, it would however not manage to put Everton off of their stride.
Soon after the game was resumed from the unplanned stoppage the Toffees would break the deadlock after Michael Keane scored his first goal for his new employers and that advantage would be doubled just before the break when Idrissa Gueye made it 2-0.
A professional performance from Ronald Koeman’s men and the fact that they did not concede an away goal will certainly put them in the driving seat going into tonight’s return leg. That said they cannot assume that they have already made the group stage draw tomorrow.
The fixture computer has not been too kind to them as they played Manchester City away on Monday night, so they perhaps have not got as much preparation for this game as they would have liked. That said their tails will be up after a well earned point at The Etihad.
In the five games that Everton have played in all competitions they have won 4 and drawn 1 and that is a record that they will look to continue this evening, whether that record can continue past Sunday when they travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea is another thing all together.
But that is still three days away and Everton boss Koeman will not allow his players to take their minds off of the task ahead, he is however without Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klassen for this tie. The former has an issue with his heel while the later has a foot injury.
Gylif Sigurdsson was signed in time for the first leg but was not selected and is available to feature tonight, he still is not quite up to full fitness so a decision will be made as to how much game time he will be given but it could be the perfect opportunity to give him the required minutes to get him up to scratch especially with Chelsea around the corner.
Hadjuk Split will certainly make life difficult for Everton both on and off the pitch as any traveling fans have been advised not to wear any colours but in regards to the head to head, I cannot see anything other than Everton securing their place in tomorrow’s Europa League draw.