Morgan Schneiderlin is vowing Everton will take Apollon Limassol “seriously” – and says his team need to win tonight’s clash with the Cypriots to avoid placing themselves under “massive pressure” in the Europa League.
The Blues lost their opening Group E encounter against Italian team Atalanta a fortnight ago – but Schneiderlin cited the experience of former club Manchester United last year as reason for optimism.
United’s ultimately triumphant Europa League campaign got off to an inauspicious start when they were beaten 1-0 by Feyenoord. Nevertheless, the Old Trafford club recovered to win four of their group matches to progress to the knockout phase, before going on to lift the trophy with victory over Ajax in May’s final.
And Schneiderlin insists Everton are targeting three points against Apollon to put themselves on a steady footing ahead of back-to-back meetings with French side Lyon.
“This match is very important,” Schneiderlin told evertontv.
“In the Europa League, it is never easy to play away from home. I remember last year with Manchester United, we played Feyenoord in the first game and lost there – it was a very bad moment for the football club.
“And in the end United won the Europa League. I am not saying we are going to win the competition, but one game does not define everything in the Europa League.
"We have a game against Limassol that we need to win, then two games against Lyon – home and away – which are very important.
“We need to win this match to avoid being under massive pressure in the next games, because we want to go through this group stage. Limassol are a team we need to take seriously and play well against.”
The match with Apollon presents Everton with an opportunity to record their third home success on the bounce.
A Carabao Cup win over Sunderland last Wednesday was followed by Saturday’s dramatic recovery against Bournemouth when, against the backdrop of a cacophonous Goodison Park, the Blues overturned a one-goal deficit to win 2-1.
And midfielder Schneiderlin says his side will be aiming to exploit their home advantage against tonight’s visitors.
“It will be hard for them to play against us, it is hard for any team to play against us at Goodison,” said Schneiderlin.
“We want to make a statement, like we did against Bournemouth, to give us a good platform until the end of the season.
“I do not think many people know much about Limassol. But we have learned about them: how they play, their strengths and weaknesses. It is very important we inject a good tempo into the game.”
Everton’s defeat in Atalanta came in the midst of a difficult run, which saw the Blues go down to defeats by Premier League heavyweight trio Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.
Schneiderlin was suspended for the loss at defending champions Chelsea – but has featured in every other top-flight and European game this term.
Having only joined the Club in January and with the Blues adding nine new faces during the summer, the Frenchman could easily point to an adaptation period as reason for the team’s initial struggles – even more so after the successive victories that have lifted the mood around Goodison.
Schneiderlin, though, insists it would be wrong to seek out mitigating factors for those early defeats. Rather, he is focused only on ensuring the recent upturn acts to ignite Everton’s campaign.
“I do not want to find excuses," said Schneiderlin. "We cannot afford to find excuses for one year, saying we need to know each other. Of course we need to know each other but we are good players, we need to understand very quickly.
“It is a big turnaround, yes, I had to get used to my new midfield partner last season and felt I did that quite quickly.
“Then new players have come in, like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney. I had already played with Rooney – and against Sigurdsson for a couple of years, so I know what he is like as a player.
“Others, like Davy Klaassen and Sandro, I need to get to know them… we need to know each other better.
“It will come and they need time to adapt as well. We will give them time and, hopefully, we are going to see improvement in every game.
“I feel in the past couple of games I have been moving in the right direction, like the team. So I am happy and I want to continue playing well.”