Scouting report: Three Atalanta players Everton must keep eye on in EL clash
COMMENT By Abigail Withey
Everton are set to face Italian outfit Atalanta in their Europa League group stage opener on Thursday night at the Stadio Citta del Tricolore.
The Toffees will be hoping to continue their impressive performances in the competition after they smashed through their qualifying matches against Slovakian side Ruzomberok and Croatian giants Hadjuk Split.
Atalanta haven’t played in the completion for 26 years and shocked many after securing fourth place in the 2016/17 Serie A table.
While Ronald Koeman’s side will be looking ahead rather than dwelling on their recent heavy 3-0 defeat to Tottenham, there are a number of players from the Italian side that the club must keep their eye on.
Here, Football Insider scouts three players the Toffees must keep an eye on during Thursday’s encounter:
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Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez
The 29-year-old attacker is undoubtedly Atalanta’s strongest player and the Toffees defence will need to be alert in order to tackle his technical skills.
He signed for the Italian side back in 2014 and also attracted interest from a host of huge clubs including AC Milan, Lazio and Roma which shows his in-demand nature.
It looks like the Argentina international will be the biggest threat to Everton on Thursday because he regularly creates chances, scores goals and is able to accurately take free-kicks.
Gomez was involved in 28 Serie A goals last season, scoring 16 of them and assisting 12.
Petagna is the centre-forward for the Serie A club and is particularly strong at the age of just 22-years-old.
He can be tough for defenders to face but his goal scoring record isn’t as high as expected as during his first full season at the club he netted five goals and provided nine assists throughout his 36 appearances.
If Koeman has the appropriate back four in place there shouldn’t be too many issues with the forward but the Blues’ defence must be switched on as his pace is enough to dart through the backline.
Toloi will be the main main that the Toffees attackers will have to face on Thursday night as the Brazilian has become a firm backline favourite over the past season.
The 26-year-old was outstanding at the back for Atalanta during their successful last campaign where he started 31 games for the Bergamo club, and will be a key player that Koeman’s squad should look out for.
The centre-back has started all of Atalanta’s Serie A matches so far this season, but the club have only secured one win, which Everton should remember going into their clash.
In other Everton news, Charlie Nicholas has predicted the outcome of the Toffees’ clash against Atalanta.