Everton vs Hajduk Split Preview: Blues looking to maintain good form in Europa League qualifier

After dispatching of Stoke City in the Premier League, Everton will turn their attention to Hajduk Split in the first-leg of their Europa League play-off round tie.

The Blues are riding high and are still yet to suffer defeat in the early stages of the season, following a buoyant pre-season.

After overcoming MFK Ruzomberok in the previous round, the tie with Hajduk won’t be an easy passage to the Europa League groups - and with games against Chelsea and Manchester City in-between - the Blues will have to be firing on all cylinders to progress.

Blues need to take advantage in first leg

The return leg in Split will not be easy for Everton as the raucous home support will look to put the fear into Ronald Koeman’s side.

Impressive smoke bomb displays and extra loud chanting within a partisan atmosphere can disrupt even the best of sides and that means the Blues need to take advantage in their home leg on Thursday night.

Since seeing off Ruzomberok in the previous round, the Blues have looked better going forward but could struggle against the Croatian side who will not make it easy for the Premier League outfit to play their natural game.

Koeman's men dominated possession in both legs against Ruzomberok but were only able to produce 20 shots, with only five of those hitting the target. They were clinical however, scoring twice, and scoring late to wrap up the two ties.

Despite the likelihood of Hajduk turning up at Goodison Park and looking to play their natural disruptive, defensive game, Koeman’s side will need to secure a greater lead than they did in the previous qualifying round.

It may take another late display of quality from the boys in the Royal Blue jerseys but an expectant home crowd will want better than they got in the third round of qualifying.

Anything less will be below the newly lofty expectations.

A look at: Hajduk Split

Split have got their domestic campaign off to a decent start, winning three of a possible five games, drawing once and only suffering defeat against Dinamo Zagreb.

They've got ground to make up in the title race following last season. The Whites finished third in the MAXtv Prva Liga, 17 points behind second-placed Dinamo Zagreb and 19 points behind eventual champions Rijeka. They already trail Dinamo by three points this term.

Despite not being the European force they once were, Joan Carrillo’s side are still a difficult outfit and will look to frustrate Koeman’s men.

Carrillo’s team utilise a type of high-pressing game where his team gets in the face of the opposition and look to give them as little space and time on the ball as possible, however, they have been exposed by diagonal passes and teams that play on the counter-attack.

Koeman may look to shuffle his team around from the one that beat Stoke on Saturday in order to have the pace that may be able to find space on the break.

Split will be without their star striker Marko Futacs, formerly of Leicester City, as he is out with a knee injury until March.

The last time the Croatian side played English opposition in Europe was against Stoke City in 2011-12, when they were knocked out 2-0 on aggregate, losing both legs 1-0.

Probable line-ups

Everton: Pickford, Martina, Keane, Jagielka, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Mirallas, Rooney, Sandro.

Hajduk Split: Letica, Barry, Carboneri, Fomitschow, Gentsoglou, Juranovic, Nizic, Ohandza, Pesic, Radosevic, Vlasic.