16 September 2014 20:56
Everton begin their first European campaign since the 2009-10 season against Wolfsburg on Thursday.
A fifth-placed finish in the Premier League last term secured Roberto Martinez’s side’s berth in the UEFA Europa League.
They have been drawn in Group H alongside Lille, Wolfsburg and Krasnodar with Martinez declaring that the 1985 European Cup Winners’ Cup victors are back to where they belong.
“Everton has to be in Europe,” he told the Daily Mirror. “When I speak to the fans they have great memories of what they’ve done in Europe.
“We have to work on a daily basis to get their consistently. It is a priority for us.
“We’re excited because I do feel that playing against German teams, French teams, and Russian teams will bring a completely different tactical approach and we will benefit from that.”
The ultimate aim for Everton, though, is UEFA Champions League football.
Martinez does not yet feel they are ready for that step, although he is confident in their ability to make waves in Europe’s secondary competition.
He added: “I do feel maybe we were not ready for Champions League football, even though we fought hard to get into the top four.
“Realistically we need to see how well we can do in the Europa League to see if one day we can get into the Champions League.
“I do believe in process and progress and it’s the perfect next step for us to assess the squad and see how we react to playing in the Europa League.
“It is a very important step for us and we really want to go all the way in the Europa League.”
The initial test comes against Wolfsburg, for which Everton will have Sylvain Distin and Samuel Eto’o available following spells on the sidelines.
However, Bryan Oviedo and Arouna Kone remain unavailable for the time being.
The Bunesliga outfit, meanwhile, are without Ivan Perisic due to a shoulder complaint, although they are boosted by the likes of Luiz Gustavo, Kevin De Bruyne and Ivica Olic being set to start.
Everton can take heart from the record books, having won two and drawn three of their five encounters versus German opposition.
Wolfsburg are without a win in their last four European away games, although the Premier League club have lost two of their last three continental matches at Goodison Park.