Ronald Koeman claims his Everton side will give Europe their best shot — despite getting no help from the Premier League, writes David Anderson in Split .
Koeman suspects the people running the domestic top flight “don’t care enough” about English teams performing well in Europe.
He is unimpressed that Thursday’s Europa League play-off decider against Hajduk Split here in Croatia is sandwiched between Monday night’s draw at Manchester City and Sunday’s 1.30pm kickoff away to Chelsea.
The Blues’ boss echoed Manchester United counterpart Jose Mourinho’s complaints from last season when he moaned about the Premier League, saying: “Maybe they don’t care enough for European football.
“I totally agreed with Jose with what happened to Manchester United last season. The same happened this week, but we know the television money decides a lot.
“It’s even more difficult to play them here when we played last Monday. Not the Saturday or the weekend. Saturday we could not play, but Sunday, yes. It’s the commercial side of football and that makes it more difficult.”
Despite the gruelling schedule, Koeman vowed to play a strong team here, as his men try to finish the job and clinch a place in Friday’s group-phase draw after winning 2-0 at home last week — because Everton’s tradition in European football means he has to take the second-tier competition seriously.
The Dutchman says he will not rest players in Europe, even though he knows it could hurt their top-four chances at home.
“It’s difficult to give competition to the strongest teams in the Premier League, with or without European football,” said Koeman, who could hand record £45million record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson his full debut.
“We know European football makes it even tougher, but that’s what we like to have.
“It’s no reason to prepare differently for tomorrow.
“I think Everton with the history of the club, it’s important to be part of Europe. But we know it’s even more difficult. OK, we have enough players. We have some injuries and that makes it tough, but we will fight and do the maximum to get into Europe.
“We had a tough match last Monday, but our line-up will be very strong. We have competition and can change players.
“The fitness level of the players is really good and it’s still at the beginning of the season. I believe in a group of players when we are doing well. That means I will not change a lot.”
Some Hajduk fans caused trouble at Goodison, chucking a seat and other objects at the Everton supporters. But Koeman is undaunted by the hostile reception that will greet his team, claiming players like to play in such charged atmospheres.
“We know about the fans of Hajduk,” said Koeman, who is without the injured Sandro up front and Davy Klaassen in midfield. “They will support their team, try to intimidate us.
“They are not close to the pitch, so it’s not a problem. You like to play in atmospheres like that. We have enough experienced players to deal with that kind of ambience.”
* HAJDUK SPLIT coach Joan Carrillo has dismissed Everton’s moans about their gruelling schedule, claiming they have a big enough squad to cope.
Carrillo claims Hajduk’s extra day’s preparation for Thursday’s decider means nothing because the big-spending visitors have a larger squad than them so have more chance to rotate.
“It’s not an advantage for us,” said the Catalan. “OK, Everton played a very good game against Manchester City on Monday and play Chelsea on Sunday.
“But Everton have a squad of around 32 very good players. How many players do we have? Twenty-five? And a lot of players have injuries — so I think it is not an advantage for us.”
Carrillo also paid tribute to Wayne Rooney after the striker announced his England retirement.
“Wayne Rooney has been a top player with Everton, United and the England national team,” he said. “He is the second player to score 200 goals in the Premier League and that shows he’s a really top player technically and professionally.”
HAJDUK SPLIT Stipica; Carbonieri, Juranovic, Nizic, Memolla; Barry, Vlasic, Radosevic, Kozulj; Ohandza; Gentsoglou.
EVERTON Pickford; Keane, Williams, Jagielka; Holgate, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Martina, Calvert-Lewin, Sigurdsson, Rooney.