Everton v Atalanta
UEFA Europa League
Everton are still without long-term absentees, Ross Barkley, Seamus Coleman, Ramiro Funes Mori, James McCarthy and Yannick Bolasie.
Boss David Unsworth told his pre-match press conference that Bolasie had joined in with a light training session on Wednesday morning, while Morgan Schneiderlin, who is suspended for this fixture following his red card away at Lyon, is poised for a return to training ahead of the weekend Premier League visit to former club Southampton..
Defender Mason Holgate is nursing a groin injury and unlikely to start.
Everton enter the Europa League contest off the back of a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday. The Toffees slipped behind inside the opening minute at Selhurst Park when James McArthur smashed home, before swiftly striking back through a Leighton Baines penalty.
Wilfried Zaha prodded in to re-establish the home side’s lead but on the stroke of half time Oumar Niasse conjured up Everton's second equaliser to earn the Blues a point.
Everton have drawn one and lost three of their Europa League group-stage fixtures, with those defeats including a 3-0 reverse against Atalanta when the teams met in Italy back in September.
Atalanta travel to Goodison Park following a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Inter Milan. A double from in-form Argentine striker Mauro Icardi settled the game in Inter’s favour and saw Gian Piero Gasperini's side drop to 11th in Serie A.
Atalanta had nevertheless claimed seven points from their previous four league outings – and are in rude health in this competition.
They top Group E owing to their superior goal difference over Lyon, having followed up their success over Everton by drawing against Lyon in France and securing four points from their double header with Cypriot outfit Apollon Limassol.
ONE TO WATCH
Atalanta resisted competition from heavyweight Serie A trio Roma, AC Milan and Lazio to sign brilliant attacker Alejandro Gomez from Metallist Kharkiv in 2014.
The 29-year-old proved something of a slow burner on his return to Italy – he played for Catania before his year in Ukraine with Kharkiv – but after two fair-to-middling campaigns exploded into life last term.
Gomez hit 16 league goals as Atalanta finished fourth in Serie A to qualify for European competition for the first time since they lost a UEFA Cup quarter final to Inter Milan in 1991.
The Argentine winger was in magical form in the reverse fixture, his dazzling feet creating a plethora of opportunities for teammates during a captivating performance, which he crowned by spectacularly scoring his side’s second goal four minutes before half time.
Gomez has been capped three times by his country and will be aiming to further push his claims for a berth in Argentina’s squad for next summer’s World Cup on his team’s first ever competitive visit to England.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Dane Jakob Kehlet will also be making his debut on these shores when he takes charge of this contest.
The 37-year-old, a FIFA official since 2011, has brandished three red cards and 48 yellows in just 13 matches since the start of this season.
He has refereed one Europa League match this term – Zenit St. Petersburg’s 5-0 victory at Vardar Skopje – and was also the man in the middle for Scotland’s World Cup qualifying win over Malta at Hampden Park in September.
As always, there will be free live audio commentary from 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. Head to the match centre, the official App or the evertonfc.com homepage on matchday to find it.