Ronald Koeman believes Everton will react strongly to their weekend defeat by Spurs when they take on Atalanta tomorrow night – and hopes the Blues’ opening Europa League Group E contest marks the start of a “long journey in Europe”.
Everton have navigated ties with MFK Ruzomberok of Slovakia and Croatian giants Hajduk Split to reach this stage of the competition, and Koeman admits it is “great” for the Club to be involved in European football.
But the manager is now urging his players to seize their chance for a run in Europe – and says he is grateful for the quick return to action following Saturday’s 3-0 Premier League loss.
“Of course, after the weekend we need to react,” said Koeman.
“The second half was not what we expect from ourselves. But the nicest part of football is that if you lose a game – if you are not happy with the performance – you get another opportunity in a few days and can show your reaction.
“I am really confident about tomorrow. For every football club it is really important to be part of Europe. Everton was out of it for many years but we are back and it is great for the players and staff – and also for the fans.
“Let’s hope for a good game tomorrow and that the journey will take us a long way in European football.”
As somebody who has played and managed at the cutting edge of the European game for more than 30 years, Koeman knows all about what Italian teams bring to the table.
He is, though, concerned only with ensuring his side imposes itself on the contest. And he is demanding Everton focus solely on the task in hand, rather than get wrapped up in any thoughts about the remaining five group games.
“If you start a competition you want to win it,” said Koeman, who revealed he has the same group of players at his disposal for the game in Stadium Mapei as were available for the meeting with Tottenham four days ago.
“But it is a long way to go and our first focus is on tomorrow. You have to take it step by step. You can rotate for several reasons but, like always, we will start with a strong team.
“A football match can be tactical, or physical. It is all about the intention of both teams.
“We will try to dominate the game and to play football. You have to know the right time to play and when to be tactical. But our intention is to play offensive football, to create opportunities to score – and we need to counter the strengths of Atalanta.”