Koeman: Ambitious Blues Craving European Football

by Paul McNamara
@Everton

Ronald Koeman has outlined his ambition to lead Everton into European competition this season, with the Blues standing 90 minutes from the Europa League group stage.

Koeman’s side head into tonight’s play-off round second-leg tie with Hajduk Split holding a two-goal advantage from last Thursday’s first leg at Goodison Park.

The manager promised Everton would not set out to merely protect their lead in the Croatian side’s Stadion Poljud – and spelled out the desire of everybody involved with the Club to be involved in continental football.

“It is the ambition of the club, the ambition of the manager and the ambition of the players to be part of Europe,” said Koeman.

“You like to play European football. I have been watching European football for the past three years, it is really nice on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – but you like to be involved.

“Our way to play is to control the game and to score goals. We have a good advantage but we still have 90-95 minutes to play.

“We need to be strong on Thursday night to get into the group stage.”

Hajduk rallied in the second half of last week’s encounter on Merseyside after falling behind to first-half goals from Michael Keane and Idrissa Gana Gueye.

And Koeman saw enough menace in the Croats' play to know Everton cannot expect an easy ride in the return meeting.

He is preparing to pick his strongest possible team, then, regardless of the Blues being in the midst of a jam-packed schedule.

The Toffees will kick-off in Split 72 hours after the final whistle blew on their frenetic Premier League draw at Manchester City on Monday night.

And defending champions Chelsea lie in wait for Koeman’s men at Stamford Bridge this coming Sunday.

“We know it will be difficult,” said the manager. “It is a tough week after playing on Monday and then travelling on Wednesday.

“On Sunday at 1.30pm we will hear the referee’s whistle against Chelsea.

“It is difficult to compete with the strongest teams in the Premier League, with or without European football. We know European football makes it even tougher but that is what we like to have.

“We will prepare for each game one by one and do everything to get the best result out of every single one.

“We know Hajduk can be strong. We had a really good first 45 minutes against them at home – then they did well in the second half. We know they have qualities. They have some players back and other good young players. We know we need to be at our best to get to the group stage.

“It was a tough match on Monday but our line-up will be very strong. We have competition and can change players.

We do have some injuries, which makes it difficult, but we will fight and give our maximum to play in Europe.

“For Everton, with the history of the Club, it is important to be part of Europe.”

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