Everton vs Apollon Limassol Preview: Blues face Cypriot opposition for the first time

After suffering defeat on matchday one away at Atalanta, Everton face Apollon Limassol in the Europa League, looking for their first win of the group stages.

In the last round of games, the Blues suffered a devastating 3-0 defeat away in Italy which rooted them to the bottom of Group E whilst Apollon picked up a late point at home to Lyon.

Ronald Koeman’s side have picked up two wins in their last two games but still harbour plenty of the problems have that affected their early season form.

The Dutch boss is likely to send out a rotated team for Thursday’s game but won’t want to underestimate the Cypriot side. After losing to Atalanta, the Blues quickly need to pick up points in the group before they fall too far behind the leaders and start needing results to go their way.

In Focus: Blues without Niasse

Since Romelu Lukaku left Everton, much has been made about the Blues finding his replacement. Sandro Ramirez was signed from Malaga but has yet to find the back of the net in a competitive game.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin is solely growing into the role but operates better with a partner, rather than as a lone forward.

Step forward, Oumar Niasse.

The Senegalese forward is awaiting an official club suit and didn’t have a locker at Finch Farm 12 months ago but he could be the Blues replacement to the departed Lukaku sized hole in the forward line.

He’s found the net three times in his last two appearances for Koeman’s side, including two late game-winning goals against AFC Bournemouth last Saturday.

Yet, Koeman’s team will be without Niasse on Thursday night as the 27-year-old forward isn’t registered in the Everton squad for the Europa League group stages.

Alongside his incoming new suit and new locker, should Everton progress to the knock-out stages, Niasse may find himself gaining a squad place.

Before Niasse can take the next step in his Everton return, the Blues have got to progress first.

A look at: Apollon Limassol

Apollon have only faced English opposition once before when they met Everton’s Merseyside neighbours Liverpool back in the early 80’s.

Sofronis Avgousti’s side finished 3rd in the Cypriot First Division last season with 73 points and beat APOEL Nicosia to win the Cypriot Cup and cap off a successful season that saw a return to European football.

The Cypriot side had to beat Aberdeen and FC Midtjylland to reach the group stage but the Blue-Whites have lost their past five group stage away fixtures and have only reached the group stages of the Europa League twice before.

They have won only two games in those previous fixtures.

Probable line-ups

Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Williams, Holgate, Martina, Gueye, Davies, Klaassen, Vlasic, Sandro and Calvert-Lewin.

Apollon: Vale, Alef, Vasillou, Roberge, Jander, Allan, Da Silva, Sachetti, Pițian, Joao Pedro and Zelaya.

Match Day Stats:

  1. Everton have won their last four home European games.
  2. The Blues haven’t lost successive European games since 2009
  3. Apollon have reached the group stages of the Europa League twice before but only won twice.