Everton v Lyon
UEFA Europa League
James McCarthy launched his comeback from an ankle injury by playing the first 45 minutes of Everton Under-23s’ meeting with Wolfsburg on Tuesday but this contest will come too soon for the midfielder to feature.
Boss Ronald Koeman is still without long-term absentees Seamus Coleman (leg), Ross Barkley (hamstring), Yannick Bolasie and Ramiro Funes Mori (both knee) but skipper Phil Jagielka came through Sunday’s draw with Brighton unscathed following his absence with a hamstring problem.
Defender Jonjoe Kenny, who played against Apollon Limassol three weeks ago returned from England Under-21 international duty carrying a knock and is a doubt despite returning to training on Wednesday.
The French outfit are waiting on the fitness of explosive midfielder Pape Cheikh Diop, who suffered a sprained ankle shortly after his summer move from Spanish outfit Celta Vigo and has missed Lyon’s past six matches.
Neither Everton nor Lyon have claimed a victory in the Europa League group stage, with both teams having drawn with Cypriots Apollon Limassol and Bruno Genesio’s team drawing last time out with Atalanta, who defeated the Blues 3-0 in Italy.
Everton’s recent Premier League form has been something of a mixed bag. A come-from-behind victory over Bournemouth and Sunday’s draw with Brighton sandwiched the 1-0 defeat by Burnley that preceded the recent international break.
Lyon are sixth in Ligue 1 but only three points adrift of second place after a goal-laden start to their domestic campaign.
High rollers Paris Saint-Germain are the only side to have defeated Genesio’s side, while last Friday’s thrilling 3-2 victory over last season’s Champions League semi-finals Monaco added to earlier successes against Strasbourg, Rennes and Guingamp.
Lyon have scored 20 goals in their nine league matches and are aiming to improve on last season’s fourth-place, which secured them direct entry into the Europa League’s group stage.
ONE TO WATCH: NABIL FEKIR
Gifted attacking midfielder Fekir started the season by striking a double against Strasbourg and has not looked back since, delivering a series of enterprising performances – with the high-water mark his wonderfully executed 95th-minute free-kick to down Monaco last Friday night.
The 24-year-old received a call into Didier Deschamps’ France squad in March 2015, less than two years after his Lyon debut and rebuffed interest from overseas to stick with his hometown club.
Fekir’s career stalled when he injured knee ligaments playing for France later in 2015 – just days after plundering a hat-trick in Lyon’s 4-0 win over Caen.
He progressively got back up to speed during an individually bright 2016-17 and has now recaptured the form which alerted the likes of Arsenal two years ago.
The Lyon-born livewire has been directly involved in exactly half of his side’s 20 Ligue 1 goals this season, scoring seven and creating three.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE: BAS NIJHUIS
Born in Holland, Nijhuis celebrates a decade as a FIFA-qualified referee this season, having first officiated in the Champions League and what was then known as the UEFA Cup.
An experienced campaigner, Thursday’s man in the middle has taken charge of a number of international matches, most recently Ireland’s World Cup Qualifying win over Moldova, where he brandished a red card to Alexandru Gatcan.
Nijhuis has been involved in two Europa League fixtures this campaign, a play-off between PAOK and Ostersund, when two penalties were awarded, and a group stage game between German outfit FC Köln and Red Star Belgrade of Serbia.
You have to go back to 2014 for the last time Bas Nijhuis refereed a Blues fixture when Everton faced another French side, Lille. Everton won the game 3-0 in the group stage of that season’s Europa League.
As always, there will be free live audio commentary of Thursday’s contest here on evertonfc.com.
In addition to our live commentary, look out for our live blog which will bring you updates, imagery, video and team news from Goodison Park. Head to the match centre, the official App or the evertonfc.com homepage on matchday to find it.