Evertonians may be venturing into the unknown on their maiden voyage to Russia – but Roberto Martinez is clued up on what to expect against FC Krasnodar.
Never before have the Blues played a game in the country – though they did play host to Zenit St Petersburg in 2007 - and Toffees chief Martinez has gone to great lengths to make sure his players are primed for Thursday’s clash at the Kuban Stadium.
>> Click here to view a photo gallery from the Blues' training session at the Kuban Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Everton can put themselves in a commanding position to qualify for the knockout phase of this season’s Europa League with a second successive Group H victory.
However, Martinez has been quick to play down such talk at this early stage and highlighted the way FC Krasnodar qualified for the group stage as an indicator of what lies in wait in Eastern Europe.
“Krasnodar have been really impressive,” Martinez declared. ”They qualified into the Europa League through a really difficult play-off game against Real Sociedad. To be able to win that game 3-0 at home shows you the strength of the side.
“There is a little bit of an unknown quantity around the league but not in terms of the talent and the investment behind the teams and I do expect it to be a really difficult game.
“I think we’ve got two big sources of information - Samuel Eto’o played for Anzhi and Aiden McGeady played with Spartak and they know the league really well. We got a lot of information but everything is on paper or in video and I think it is important to get that live feeling and obviously Samuel and Aiden have been really influential on that.
“We already saw how well they adapted into the away fixture against Lille so we know a lot about Krasnodar, but it’s more about we can adapt into our first experience in the Europa League away from home for a long time and making sure we are as good as we were against Wolfsburg.”
The adaptation process involved a training session at the Kuban Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The squad touched down in Krasnodar after a four-and-a-half hour flight from Liverpool and were transported straight to the ground to familiarise themselves with surroundings at the 32,000 capacity arena.
Thursday’s match kicks off at 5pm UK time but a three-hour difference means it is an 8pm start local time.
“Away from home I think you are going to get completely different types of games,” Martinez continued. “I think that’s where our preparation is; to try to make sure that we don’t get affected by playing away from the normal environment that we are used to in the domestic league.
“Obviously what we want is to adapt to it, be ourselves, and make sure we can perform in the manner that we’ve been doing in the Wolfsburg game.
“It’s a really exciting game, it’s as difficult as you are going to get in terms of being away from what we are used to and that’s what it brings to being able to perform in European competitions and being able to perform against anyone.”