By Danny Wright
Charlie Nicholas believes that Everton will get their Europa League group stage campaign off to a good start by winning away at Atalanta on Thursday night.
The Sky Sports pundit has predicted that the Toffees will earn a narrow 1-0 win against the Italians courtesy of a single goal from Sandro Ramirez.
Everton have been drawn a testing group in the Europa League with Apollon and French giants Lyon also in Group E and while Nicholas admits that he doesn’t know a whole lot about Thursday’s hosts, he is still backing Ronald Koeman’s men to earn a good start to their campaign.
“I have to admit I’ve not seen much of this Atalanta side so it will be interesting to see how they secured such a good league finish in Serie A last season,” he said on the Sky Sports website.
“Everton have obviously struggled for goals so far and were really disappointed against Tottenham, but without a main striker it might suit them to be playing away from home.
“That’s a problem they really needed to resolve before the transfer window closed and now Ronald Koeman needs to find a way of getting more of his players to contribute.
“Sandro Ramirez isn’t an out-and-out striker as we know him but he’s a grafter and has the pace to trouble teams on the counter-attack.”
Sandro is yet to score for Everton since he signed from Malaga during the summer transfer window and he he has big boots to fill following Romelu Lukaku’s switch to Manchester United.
The Spanish forward is likely to lead the attack once more on Thursday night and although Atalanta had a good season in Serie A last time out, they are a team that Everton should really be beating.
Everton are without a win in four games going into Thursday’s match.
The 3-0 loss at home against Tottenham on Saturday showed that Koeman’s side is far from being the finished article after a whole host of signings were made over the summer.