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Sunday 22 October 2017

Coleman sets his sights on Europe with Everton

SEAMUS Coleman is relishing a return to European action with Everton later this week as the Ireland star gets a chance to measure just how far he has come in the game.

Roberto Martinez's side kick off their Europa League campaign on Thursday at home to Wolfsburg, and while the Donegal man has become a Premier League regular, Europe holds a place in his heart as he made his debut for the Toffees in the old UEFA Cup, in a 5-0 hammering away to Benfica.

"I remember that Benfica game - it was a strange day to say the least," Coleman (right) recalls of that night in October 2009.

"I was told maybe an hour or two before the game that I was playing. I wasn't long ov er from Sligo Rovers, and now I'm playing in the Stadium of Light against Benfica, in a massive game.

"It was something to look forward to, and then we went out and got beat 5-0! It was a difficult night for us all, but a great experience.

REMEMBER

"It's something I'll always remember; my debut for Everton, away at Benfica, it's something I probably could never have imagined when I was younger. That night taught me about the standard of European football. That Benfica side had some top players playing that night.

"It's going to be difficult again this season, I'm sure, but that is who you want to be playing against. You want to test yourself against the best around," added Coleman, who regrets that his side missed out on the main club competition in European football.

"It's what we set out to do at the start of last season," he says. "Ideally, it would have been the Champions League, but we just missed out on that in the end. But to get European football back at Goodison on Thursday nights is something that we are all really looking forward to.

"The atmosphere is a little bit special playing at Goodison under lights, and that's something we all can't wait for. It is a new challenge for some of us, but a good thing. I can't put my finger on why Goodison is like that with night matches. Our fans are great in every game we play at home, but it is just that little bit more special with the night games.

"It's certainly my favourite time to play at Goodison, but I can't pinpoint just why it's so special. There's just something about it."

He added: "We got a difficult draw. We're looking forward to that first game against Wolfsburg, and hopefully getting out of the group stages. If we do that, then anything can happen from there. We know that it's a difficult competition, especially when the Champions League teams come down into it after Christmas, but it's one that I'm certainly looking forward to. We all are."

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