Atalanta v Everton
Thursday 14 September, 18:00
Live on BT Sport 2
Atalanta keen to make the most of Europa League reward
Quite frankly, no-one really expected Atalanta to achieve last season's fourth-place finish, so this Europa League campaign is a delightful bonus for fans of the Bergamo club. That said, key players have departed, and Atalanta have made a modest start to this term.
Excellent young midfielder Franck Kessie has gone to Milan, while attacking right-back Andrea Conti made the same move. Some experienced players like keeper Etrit Berisha and attacking midfielder Josip Ilicic have come in, while popular midfielder Maarten De Roon has returned after an unsatisfactory sojourn in Middlesbrough. Inspirational coach Gian Piero Gasperini admits his team aren't quite performing how he would like them to, but there is plenty of talent in the Atalanta line-up, and they are certainly capable of having another strong campaign.
Atalanta have lost at home to Roma and away to Napoli, although the weekend's 2-1 victory against Sassuolo did at least put points on the board. On Thursday, Atalanta will be hampered by the fact that they won't actually be playing at their home in Bergamo, because it isn't deemed suitable for a UEFA match. Therefore, they will have to travel 120 miles to play their group games at the Mapei Stadium near Modena.
Everton look to recapture early-season solidity
After Saturday's tame 3-0 home defeat to a rampant Spurs, fingers are being pointed at Goodison Park. Boss Ronald Koeman accused his players of being too weak and too nice, while some Everton fans are bemoaning the failure to recruit an adequate replacement for the departed Romelu Lukaku. How it must sting to see that Lukaku has scored more goals for Manchester United and Belgium this season than Everton have managed as an entire squad.
However, at least the Toffees managed to make it through a potentially tricky qualifying campaign, and they can now have a crack at trying to reach the knockout phase of the Europa League, just as they did under Roberto Martinez a few seasons ago. Given that the other two sides in their group are Apollon Limassol and last season's semi-finalists Lyon, a good start in Italy is essential.
Koeman can call upon Morgan Schneiderlin after suspension, but Ross Barkley still isn't fully fit. Sandro is likely to get the nod in attack, but new signing Nikola Vlasic is pushing hard after impressing in training. The young Croatian played against the Toffees in the qualifiers for Hajduk Split, but isn't cup-tied.
Everton have been poor in defeats to Spurs and Chelsea, and need to return to the gritty, solid performances of the first few weeks of the season. They only conceded once in their four UEL qualifiers, and their 1-1 draw at Manchester City is looking superb in light of their bitter rivals Liverpool's 5-0 drubbing at the Etihad.
Atalanta like to play on the front foot under Gasperini, but in unfamiliar surroundings it might take them a while to settle, and they have made a few changes to their team.
The hosts seem too short to me at [2.38], so I think we can happily support the visitors using Draw No Bet at [2.38].
Despite leaking a few goals at the start of this season, Atalanta still have the basis of a very good backline, with centre-back Mattia Caldara a potential superstar.
Everton have kept four clean sheets already this season, so you may be tempted by backing No in the Both Teams To Score market at [1.98].