The trip to Krasnodar provides another break away from the Premier League after a difficult start where the players have a fresh competition to turn their minds to. No-one is taking them lightly after their win against Real Sociedad which is probably for the best as a win would be huge for the group standings.
Coleman, McCarthy, Pienaar, Kone and Distin are all left home as all are returning from injury or have slight problems and will not be risked in Russia. I think for their Russian experience McGeady and Eto’o will start the match. Martinez has preferred the 4-3-3 formation in recent weeks and that could be used again with Lukaku or Atsu playing alongside. Besic played well vs Liverpool and could be played again alongside Gibson and Barry. Interestingly Ryan Ledson has traveled as well. Ledson’s style of play would fit perfectly in all Martinez’ systems but he may of been taken for the experience rather than any playing time. Another youngster in Ty Browning could be in line to start after his impressive cameo vs Liverpool. I feel that Martinez will revert back to 4-2-3-1 in this match in order to start Eto’o centrally with Naismith in behind with McGeady and Atsu on the wings and Lukaku rested.
There are two teams in Krasnodar and they both share the Kuban Stadium. FK Krasnodar and FK Kuban Krasnodar are very similar in name and similar in league position. Kuban Krasnodar (The ones we’re not playing) sit two places higher in 4th with 19 points after 9 games compared to Krasnodar’s 17 from 9 in sixth. As mentioned, this is Everton’s first game in Russia as when we drew Zenit in the group stages seven years ago, teams only played each other once, and we played Zenit at Goodison.
Joaozinho has scored 9 goals in his 16 games for Krasnodar this season and carries one of their main threats and is just one of many Brazilian nationals who now play in Russia. Krasnodar have three of them, the other two in the team are Wanderson and Ari who all play an attacking role in the team. All three have a combined 10 goals already in the Europa League. Slightly less impressive when you see that Everton will be their 8th game in the competition as they have had to go through 3 qualifying rounds just to get to the group stages.
A win will be difficult and it’s not hard to see why, not only is the much talked about result vs Real Sociedad (A team who beat Real Madrid the weekend after losing to them) impressive but as was the draw to Lille which leaves Lille in a dangerous position in the group. Due to these results though I don’t think complacency will be an issue, and also there will be a good feeling amongst the group after Phil Jagielka’s wonder goal. I still think it may be a draw is the most likely outcome.
What will it mean?
A defeat wouldn’t be bad. Our win against wolfsburg gives us the breathing space for a bad result here but a draw would mean that winning our remaining two home games would gives us 10 points irregardless of our away trips to Lille and Wolfsburg. A win though would mean only a major catastrophe would stop us from qualifying. Winning the group should be a key aim as it means avoiding a home draw in the first knockout round. It also means avoiding the 4 Champions League teams with the best group record. Juventus however, were unseeded last season so it’s not always a clear cut advantage.