Wednesday 17 January 2018

Everton ready to meet challenge of artificial pitch

Roberto Martinez hopes continued success in Europe can help his Everton side gain some momentum in what remains of their top-flight campaign. Photo: AP Photo/Keystone,Marcel Bieri
Roberto Martinez hopes continued success in Europe can help his Everton side gain some momentum in what remains of their top-flight campaign. Photo: AP Photo/Keystone,Marcel Bieri

Jamie Holland

Everton manager Roberto Martinez believes that his players are ready for the challenge of facing Young Boys on the Swiss side's artificial pitch.

In preparation for tonight's Europa League last-32 first leg, the Toffees have this week been training on a similar surface used by Everton Ladies and the Widnes Vikings rugby league team.

Young Boys have won all five of their European games at their Stade de Suisse home this term, including a 2-0 victory over Napoli.

And asked during his pre-match press conference at the stadium if he was worried about the pitch there, Martinez said: "Obviously it is a completely different surface and the bounce of the ball is different.

"The home team are a bit more used to those conditions. But from our point of view, we have done our preparation right - the whole week we have been working on that sort of surface, and I feel we are ready.

"I think it is more about making sure we don't do too much, because I think recovering from working on this sort of surface can take a little bit longer than with natural grass.

"But overall, we are ready as a team to be able to perform and be ourselves tomorrow, and it is not an excuse or a reason for us not to be able to compete in the game."

Everton, who are enjoying their first continental campaign in five seasons, head into tonight's match off the back of an impressive effort in the group stage.

They accrued 11 points en route to claiming top spot in Group H, with their only loss coming after that position had been secured.

However, their domestic form has been more disappointing, with them having made early exits in both cup competitions and winning only two of their last 13 Premier League fixtures - a sequence that has featured seven defeats.

Martinez, whose side came fifth in the Premier League last season but are 12th at the moment, hopes continued success in Europe can help the Merseysiders gain some momentum in what remains of their top-flight campaign.

The Spaniard said: "For us to be involved in the Europa League is a phenomenal opportunity to grow as a team and it is something we need at the club. European football is something that needs to run in our DNA and we want to have this on a consistent basis.

Full-back Leighton Baines and midfielder Aiden McGeady are among eight Everton players not to have made the trip.

Irish Independent

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