20:05 GMT, 18th of October 2017, Goodison Park (Liverpool) BT Sport
The opening matches of this season have gone as badly for Everton as anyone could expect. While their summer transfer window gave the Toffees all the hope and expectation in the world, Ronald Koeman’s men have struggled to gel together as a team and now find themselves languishing in 16th position in the league.
Their Europa League campaign is not much better where they sit at the bottom of their group without a win to their name. Given the fact there have only been two games so far, there is still a chance for Everton to still ensure they qualify for the next phase. However, they must step up their game as they go into a double header against a Lyon side who find themselves at the opposite end of their domestic league to Everton. A win for Everton would help ease their nerves and could be a turning point in their Europa League fortunes.
Although Lyon have not been setting the world alight, they are getting results every week. With only one loss in Ligue 1 this season, they are responding well to life after Alexandre Lacazette. Having drawn both games in European competition so far, a win against Everton would set them on their way to the knock-out stages. Whoever does not grab all three points in this game will find themselves with a mountain to climb if they wish to qualify.
Last time out
Brighton 1-1 Everton (EPL)
It was only a late penalty from Wayne Rooney that allowed Everton to rescue a point at the AMEX stadium this weekend. Despite grabbing a point, their performance didn’t leave fans with much to cheer about. The performance itself will not have helped under-pressure manager Ronald Koeman with the draw leaving Everton just two points off the relegation zone.
Before the penalty, the Toffees had gone down to an 82nd minute strike from Anthony Knockaert who seemed to have done enough to condemn Everton to their fifth loss in six games. A lapse in concentration from Brighton’s captain, Bruno, led to a spot kick being awarded which Rooney duly dispatched. A better performance from Everton will be required if they are to take anything from Lyon on Thursday.
Lyon 3-2 AS Monaco (Ligue 1)
Frantic scenes at the Stade des Lumieres on Friday night saw Lyon grab all three points in a blockbuster clash against Monaco. Four goals in the first 34 minutes saw the game locked up at 2-2 thanks to goals from Mariano and Nabil Fekir for the home team. Adama Traore and Rony Lopes made the scoresheet for their opposition.
The score seemed settled at 2-2 until the final kick of the game when Nabil Fekir stole the show with a stunning free kick to grab all three points for his side. The 90+5 minute winner meant Lyon jumped up to sixth spot, just three points off Monaco in second place. It was a much better outing for Lyon, who have appeared to be a mixed bag since the commencement of the season.
With Yannick Bolasie, Ramio Funes Mori, Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley and Aaron Lennon all out to injury, Ronald Koeman’s hands are held somewhat.
Koeman is also faced with the perennial question of how to fit three number 10s on the pitch. Despite Wayne Rooney’s last minute penalty at the weekend, he will likely be rested, allowing Gylfi Sigurdsson the opportunity to occupy the attacking central midfield position.
Bruno Génésio has only got the injury of Pape Cheikh to contend with – his sprained ankle putting him out of contention for the last 6 games.
Beyond that, though, he has the full reign of his squad and will likely set his team up to sit deep and try to catch Everton on the break, particularly utilising the pace of Adama Traore on the right-hand side.
Lyon’s firing strikers vs Everton’s shaky defence
Everton have defended woefully at times this season, conceding goals left, right and centre. In fact, they have only kept one clean sheet in the league so far and that was on their opening day match against Stoke. They have leaked goals in numerous ways, whether that be from set pieces, scraps in the box or just poor marking. With the likes of Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams unable to cope with more pacey opponents, their ponderousness at the back has often been exploited by opponents.
Lyon have had no problem scoring goals with Mariano being their main man up front. Alexandre Lacazette’s replacement from Real Madrid has had no issues adjusting to life in France, hitting the back of the net seven times in eleven appearances.
As a result, Everton need to play with defence as their main priority: they should look to defend first and only then try to find the net. If they defend well enough at home against Lyon, they will create enough chances to win the game. With enough fire-power at the top end of the pitch to score goals, can they finally keep a clean sheet?
Should Everton treat the Europa League as second priority?
Everton are in all kinds of trouble in the league at the moment, having slowly fallen down the table as the Premier League season has gone on. With Ronald Koeman facing increasing pressure with every dropped point, the Europa League could hardly come at a worse time for him.
Should he treat the Europa League as a foregone conclusion and play weakened sides against Lyon to rest players for their more important Premier League fixtures? With the accumulation of fixtures that progression in the Europa League brings, Everton may be best suited by consolidating their battles on one front.
Everton 0-2 Lyon
With Crystal Palace beating the Premier League champions Chelsea at the weekend, Everton are now looking like the most beleaguered team in England’s top division. The visit from Lyon comes at the worst possible time for Ronald Koeman and it may be the case that the Dutch manager may field a weakened side. Despite the fact that Lyon have hardly set the world alight this season, they have picked up results and so it seems that, on Everton’s current run of form, this effeciency on the part of Lyon will continue.
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