Everton vs Lyon Preview: Blues Europa League campaign on the brink against French giants

A preview of Everton’s vital Europa League group game against Lyon

Everton vs Lyon Preview: Blues Europa League campaign on the brink against French giants
Photo: Getty Images

Everton host Olympique Lyonnais at Goodison Park on Thursday, needing to kick-start their Europa League campaign before they find themselves on the brink of crashing out of the group stage.

Ronald Koeman’s side sit bottom of Group E, without a win following a defeat away to Atalanta and a draw at home with Apollon Limassol.

Pressure is on Koeman and his team to deliver a win that could give the Blues a chance at keeping qualification from the group stage a possibility.

Bruno Génésio’s team are coming off a draw against Atalanta in their previous group game and similarly to the Blues, they were denied victory over Limassol after a dramatic late goal.

They sit second in Group E on two points and the French side could jump above group leaders Atalanta with a win.

In Focus: No system, no identity?

One constant that could be taken from Koeman’s first season as Everton boss was the unpredictability, good or what could be perceived as bad, in his team selection.

Now, the Blues are in a rhythm of selecting a similar if not identical team each week, without a clear plan for the game until they find themselves a goal down.

A question that is raised of the Dutchman’s team selection regards his summer signings and a willingness, if not need, to fit them into a team with a disregard for what works and what gets results.

Similarly, a stubbornness to not change systems was perhaps the biggest knock on Koeman when he swapped Southampton for Merseyside last summer but initially, it could be overlooked as he took a team devoid of confidence and ideas from the previous regime, and led them back to the Europa League places in the Premier League table.

What worked for Koeman last season looks to have been set to one side in an attempt to justify the club’s summer spending, letting Romelu Lukaku leave and potentially also letting Ross Barkley move on too.

Trying to replace Lukaku in the aggregate with several players and replacing the mercurial Barkley with a more steady, consistent player in Gylfi Sigurdsson are yet to pay dividends.

Yet it looks unclear if it will work out anytime soon.

For all their faults, the past handful of seasons for the Blues have had somewhat of a predictably to them. Perhaps not in their results or league finishes, but more in how you know just how they’ve been going to play.

Teams know they have to defend Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman getting forward from defensive positions, Phil Jagielka being difficult to beat at the back and Barkley providing an unpredictability in the forward areas.

Perhaps that team is done and it’s time to move on but one thing that has always been prevalent in an Everton team, despite the results, is that they have an identity in what they’re setting out to do during games.

In their current form, that identity is desperately missing and Koeman has to find it, fast.

 

A look at: Lyon

Lyon currently sit sixth in Ligue 1, nine points behind leaders Paris Saint Germain. Their last domestic result was a dramatic late win over last seasons’ champions AS Monaco, thanks to a 95th minute from Nabil Fekir.

Les Gones are undefeated in four games, three domestically and one in the Europa League - that being the draw with Atalanta. Their last defeat came away at PSG where they were beaten 2-0.

Génésio’s side set out to press from the front and are quick in doing so. The French boss preaches working as a unit and it’s something that resonates to his players and shows in their play.

Yet, they’ve been pegged back from winning positions on numerous occasions this season.

Memphis Depay, formerly of Manchester United and Fekir are the two names that jump out when looking at a Lyon team sheet.

Fekir, the former strike partner of Alexandre Lacazette and current Lyon captain, is perhaps the most important player for the former French champions and has already displayed his ability in and around goal this season, scoring seven times in nine appearances.

Similar to a former Lyon man, Juninho, the 24-year-old is lethal from set-pieces. That’ll be something for Koeman’s side to take note of before Thursday’s meeting.

 

 

Probable line-ups

Everton: Pickford, Martina, Jagielka, Keane, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Sigurdsson, Vlasic and Rooney.

Lyon: Lopes, Tete, Yanga-Mbiwa, Marcelo, Mendy, Tousart, Ferri, Fekir, Depay, Traore and Diaz.