Despite the return of the Champions League, with the second round of games to be played on Wednesday evening, not everyone is focusing on the elite European competition, with a number of teams readying themselves for the Europa League group stages, kicking off on Thursday.
One of those teams, back in Europe for the first time in 26 years, is Atalanta, who are gearing up for a tough game against Ronald Koeman’s Everton.
Ahead of the encounter, Gazzetta dello Sport had a brief chat with one of their midfielders, Bryan Cristante, about their tough group (which also includes Lyon) and playing against the seventh best team in last year’s Premier League.
He said: “The draw was a bit unlucky. We followed it together and some of us didn’t take it well, but tackling strong teams is also stimulating and we are aware we can do well.”
Of course, most sides would prefer an easy draw, one that would guarantee them a pass to the knockout round in 2018, but that’s not what awaits Atalanta, with plenty of great opponents to face in the coming months, including one very special player.
Cristante continued: “Everton are a top Premier League team, a rich club full of tradition. It will be a great challenge. Then there is Wayne Rooney. Just to hear his name in the lineup has an effect.”
For many Atalanta fans, the fact the Toffees are coming into this game on the back of a 3-0 home loss to Tottenham while their own side picked up their first three points of the season could be seen as a good omen, but the 22-year-old midfielder doesn’t see it that way.
He said: “There’s never a right time to deal with such prepared opponents. We are analysing them at the moment: they’re very physical.”
Coming fifth in Serie A last year, Atalanta were the surprise package, something Everton haven’t been in a while, used to be fighting for European spots.
Will experience triumph on Thursday, or will beginner’s luck prevail?