herald

Monday 21 August 2017

surface tension for the toffees

Everton boss Roberto Martinez feels the poor condition of the pitch at Dynamo Kiev's Olympic Stadium is "a concern" - but he is sure it will be just as problematic for one side as the other in tonight's Europa League last-16 second-leg encounter.

Rather than training on the pitch at their opponents' stadium as they normally would, Martinez's men did a session on the running track surrounding the playing surface - while the turf was covered by a protective sheet - following their arrival in Ukraine yesterday.

And when asked about the state of the grass, the Spaniard said at his pre-match press conference: "The pitch is a concern for both teams.

technical

"Dynamo Kiev are a technical team and they need a good pitch, and we are exactly the same.

"I don't think it will play a big part in terms of giving a favour or advantage to either of the two sides.

"I think it is a little bit of a shame for the game of football that the pitch is not going to be in perfect condition.

"But you have to adapt to whatever surface you play on."

The tie is finely poised ahead of tonight's contest, with Everton leading 2-1 from the first leg at Goodison Park having come from behind. They face a Dynamo team who boast a formidable home record - this season they have won seven and drawn two of their nine Olympic Stadium games in the Ukrainian league, which they lead, as well as triumphed in all four of their European fixtures there.

But although he knows securing a draw will be enough for the Toffees, Martinez - whose side are unbeaten in continental away games this term, and have won their last two - insists Everton will be gunning for another victory.

"I think for us it is very clear - we want to be ourselves," he said.

"We are not a team focused on keeping a clean sheet. We want to enjoy ourselves on the pitch and score goals.

"We are facing a team we respect and admire immensely - they have a great record at this ground.

"It is very much about approaching the game as 90 minutes, in isolation, and trying to win it.

"I don't think we are in a position where we can try to change the way we are as a team just in order to keep a clean sheet. It would be a major mistake to do that."

This is Everton's first European campaign in five seasons and they are now one step away from what would be their maiden continental quarter-final in 30 years, with their last one coming en route to them lifting the Cup Winners' Cup in 1984-85. Full-back Seamus Coleman has stressed the goal for the club, the last remaining British outfit in the Europa League, is to go all the way this time as well.

And he has emphasised that confidence in the squad is high after Sunday's morale-boosting 3-0 win over Newcastle - only the Merseysiders' second Premier League victory in 13 matches, which gave them back-to-back wins in all competitions for the first time since November.

"We worked very hard all of last season to get into this competition and our goal has always been to win it," Coleman said.

stage

"We have done well so far and it would be great to get to the next stage - it has been such a long time. It has been brilliant for the squad getting two good results back-to-back.

"The dressing room has never got too down, we have just kept going and doing the right things.

"Thankfully form has picked up and we are confident that can continue between now and the end of the season."

Everton are without forward Kevin Mirallas (knock) in Ukraine but winger Aiden McGeady may return to action in this evening's game after more than a month on the sidelines with a knee injury.

Midfielder Gareth Barry can be selected once more as his suspension applies only to domestic action, but winger Aaron Lennon is cup-tied.

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