Everton back where they belong, says Roberto Martinez
Toffees set to welcome Europa League rivals Wolfsburg to Goodison Park on Thursday
Everton manager Roberto Martinez speaks to the media during a pre-match press conference at Finch Farm ahead of the Europa LEague tie with Wolfsburg at Goodison Park.. Photograph: Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
Everton v Wolfsburg, Thursday, 8.05pm
Everton are back where they belong, according to boss Roberto Martinez.
The Toffees will play their first European match for five seasons when they take on German side Wolfsburg in the Europa League at Goodison Park on Thursday night.
Lille and Russians Kuban Krasnodar are the other teams that make up Group H, and Martinez, who will be managing in Europe for the first time, thinks the games are exactly what his team needs.
“Everton had their first taste of European football 52 years ago so this is nothing new,” Martinez said. “This is something we feel should be part of our day-to-day work.
“We’re very excited, as you can imagine, we’ve been working hard for 12 months to achieve this opportunity. The Europa League is a great competition, it’s where we need to be testing ourselves.
“The only way to fulfil our potential is playing games like the one we’re going to face.
“The draw has been really kind in terms of bringing two phenomenal football teams of the quality of Lille and Wolfsburg to Goodison, and then a real surprise with Krasnodar beating Real Sociedad in the play-offs.
“In terms of the group stage, it’s a phenomenal challenge for us, but that’s what we want at Everton.”
Everton go into the game buoyed by their first Premier League victory of the season over West Brom on Saturday. That followed draws against Leicester and Arsenal and a topsy-turvy 6-3 defeat by leaders Chelsea.
Martinez’s passing style appears a natural fit for European football, but the Spaniard says said: “It’s not about styles, I think it’s about being very good in your style.
“It’s been a difficult start to the season for us in terms of results, but what has been very impressive is the manner that we’ve been ourselves, the way that we’ve got on the ball, the way that we’ve broken teams down and scored goals.
“We came back to our natural defensive intensity against West Brom. I thought the clean sheet we had was us being ourselves and that’s what we need. “We are based on a lot of hard work and a real strong team spirit. Slowly we are getting to a really good level.”
Everton had been pushing to qualify for the Champions League for most of last season, and many managers do not welcome the Europa League and the effect Thursday matches have on their domestic schedule.
Martinez, though, does not see it as a problem and feels his squad has the flexibility to cope.
“As a player, you want to play games and if you play Sunday and Thursday, that’s what you want. When you’ve got a full week to prepare for a game, you need to have two really hard sessions and I don’t think as a player you really look forward to coming into training and having to put a lot of effort into that.
“If you can avoid injuries, you welcome games.”
Samuel Eto’o is in contention for some game time against Wolfsburg. The Cameroon striker missed the win over the Baggies with a groin problem but has recovered. Defender Sylvain Distin (hip) is also available while long-serving full-back Tony Hibbert could make his first appearance since February, but the game comes too soon for striker Arouna Kone (knee) and full-back Bryan Oviedo (broken leg).
Provisional squad: Howard, Coleman, Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Hibbert, Barry, McCarthy, McGeady, Mirallas, Naismith, Lukaku, Robles, Stones, Alcaraz, Gibson, Osman, Besic, Pienaar, Eto’o.