Atalanta v Everton preview: Ronald Koeman seeks greater belief from Toffees
Last Updated: 14/09/17 6:44pm
Ronald Koeman says Everton need to rediscover their lost confidence when they open their Europa League group stage campaign at Italian club Atalanta on Thursday.
The Toffees boss was unhappy with their performance at home to Spurs last Saturday, when Everton lost 3-0 at Goodison Park, and has called for an immediate response from his players.
Speaking ahead of the Group E fixture, Koeman said: "After last weekend, we need to react. In that second half we lost a lot of belief and confidence. I think we didn't play with the right aggression.
"The second half is not what we expect from ourselves.
"If you lose the game, if you are not happy with the performance, and you get an opportunity in the next few days, you like to show it. For that, I am really confident about tomorrow."
Manchester United, who Everton face at Old Trafford on Sunday, certainly felt the Europa League's worth last season, gaining access to the Champions League by winning the second-tier competition.
Koeman has indicated he will make changes for Thursday's contest but emphasised it will be a "strong" Everton team that face Atalanta, and that he takes the Europa League "really seriously".
"It is all about the way of thinking of the responsible people in the club," Koeman said. "I am the manager and I take it really seriously - we showed that already in the qualification rounds, to reach the group stage. It will not be different tomorrow.
"Of course, we don't have 11 players - we have much more players available, and for several reasons you can make some rotations.
"But, like always, we will start with a strong team."
Gian Piero Gasperini, meanwhile, has warned Everton and Atalanta's other opponents that the Bergamo club are returning to European football full of confidence.
La Deawere the surprise package in Italy last term, finishing fourth in Serie A, and Atalanta's boss is looking forward to the clash with the Toffees.
He said: "We are confident. We might not bring a name but we had an excellent season last year and we carry a lot of enthusiasm."
Group E also features France's Lyon and Apollon Limassol of Cyprus, and Gasperini added: "Everton are strong in many aspects and we know it is a tough group.
"But I think the team is ready to play in this group."
Thursday's game is taking place at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia rather than at Atalanta's Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia home, which is to be redeveloped to make it fit for European competition.
Atalanta captain Alejandro Gomez admits playing 'home' games away from the usual surroundings will have "quite a lot of impact" for Gasperini's men, but has also stressed that the team will still be boosted by their "special, unique" supporters.
He said: "It will have quite a lot of impact because we know how to play when we play at home, and are strong.
"But we can use the enthusiasm of our fans. Many will come from Bergamo and they are very special, unique fans.
"Everton are a team with a lot of tradition and history but we feel we can play against anyone."
Everton have no new injury concerns for this Group E clash in Reggio Emilia.
James McCarthy is about one week away from returning, following a knee injury, while Ross Barkley's hamstring problem has still not cleared up.
Seamus Coleman remains a long-term absentee with a broken leg, with Ramiro Funes Mori and Yannick Bolasie are both still sidelined with knee injuries.
Aaron Lennon is another who has not travelled with the squad to Italy.
This will be the first meeting between Atalanta and Everton and Atalanta's first encounter with an English side.
Everton have faced Italian opposition on six previous occasions (W1 D2 L3), scoring in just one of those games - a 2-0 win in March 2008 at Goodison Park against Fiorentina.
The Toffees have lost all three of their away games in Italy without scoring - losing 0-1 v Inter Milan in a European Cup game in September 1963, 0-1 v AC Milan in a UEFA Cup game in October 1975 and 0-2 v Fiorentina in March 2008, also in the UEFA Cup.
The Orobici have faced British opponents once before, facing Merthyr Tydfil in the Cup Winners' Cup in 1987/88 - they eliminated the Welsh side 3-2 on aggregate.
Atalanta are competing in European competition for the first time since the 1990/91 campaign, when they played in the UEFA Cup and reached the quarter-finals.
Gian Piero Gasperini has managed in the Europa League previously - his Genoa side failed to make it out of the group stage in the 2009/10 campaign.
Everton have featured in two previous UEFA Europa League campaigns, making it out of the group stage on both occasions - they lost in the last 32 in 2009/10 and the last 16 in 2014/15.
In European competition, English sides have lost nine of their last 13 visits to Italy (W2 D2 L9).
In the Europa League only, just one English side has ever won against an Italian side away from home (P10 W1 D4 L5) - Liverpool defeating Udinese 1-0 in December 2012.
Everton's Davy Klaassen featured in the Ajax team that reached the Europa League final last season - he played 13 games, scoring twice and assisting once.
Ronald Koeman hasn't managed in European competition (excl. qualifiers) since the 2009/10 season with AZ in the Champions League - the Dutch side were eliminated at the group stage.
I have to admit I've not seen much of this Atalanta side so it will be interesting to see how they secured such a good league finish in Serie A last season.
Everton have obviously struggled for goals so far and really disappointed against Tottenham, but without a main striker it might suit them to be playing away from home.
That's a problem they really needed to resolve before the transfer window closed and now Ronald Koeman needs to find a way of getting more of his players to contribute.
Sandro Ramirez isn't an out-and-out striker as we know him but he's a grafter and has the pace to trouble teams on the counter-attack.
Unlike Wenger, Koeman doesn't suffer fools gladly and will be demanding a response from his players after they were embarrassed at Goodison Park.
Charlie predicts: 0-1 and Sandro to score first (35/1 with Sky Bet)
Everton are Sky Bet's 11/5 outsiders to start the group stages with a win, as Atalanta are considered 11/8 favourites, while the draw is priced at 9/4. Ronald Koeman's men are, however, considerably shorter in the outright betting at 16/1 compared to their hosts' price of 50/1. The first goalscorer market is wide open with Wayne Rooney, Alejandro Gomez and Andreas Cornelius joint favourites at 11/2 apiece, while Rooney is enhanced from 4/1 to 5/1 to net in a Toffees win.