Wednesday September 13 2017
Koeman: 'Atalanta tough to beat'

Ronald Koeman hints Wayne Rooney will start for Everton against Atalanta and warns “every Italian team is difficult to beat.”

It kicks off at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio-Emilia, which usually hosts Sassuolo, on Thursday at 18.00 UK time (17.00 GMT).

The initial questions were about whether veteran Rooney would be in the starting XI for this Europa League opener.

“Rooney is a great player and he has showed it from the start of the season,” said the manager in his Press conference. 

“I need to talk to the players about the team first, but he is part of the team tomorrow and he travelled and he is looking forward to the competition. 

“He won the title last season with Manchester United. They had a great season in the Europa League. I take the Europa League really seriously. That will be no different tomorrow.

“I am the manager and I take this competition really seriously. We won our qualifiers. We can show it won’t be different tomorrow. We have more players available. 

“You can make some rotation, but we start with a strong team. After last weekend we need to react.”

Atalanta are back in Europe after almost 30 years, having surprisingly finished fourth in Serie A last season.

“From my experience, I know it is not about the name of the Italian team, because every Italian team is difficult to beat. It is a strong team and difficult to beat I have respect for Atalanta and what they achieved last season. 

“They lost some players and signed some. For Atalanta, for every club, to be part of Europe is important. We were out for many years but now we are back. Let’s hope the journey takes us a long way in Europe, but we have to fight for it.”

Everton need a boost following their Premier League defeat to Tottenham at the weekend.

“If you lose the game, you get another opportunity to put it right. So I am confident about tomorrow.”

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