Everton vs Wolfsburg: Phil Jagielka ready for Europa League demands as he claims Toffees are prepared for European return

Everton will return to Europe for the first time in five seasons against Bundesliga side Wolfsburg

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The Independent Online

Phil Jagielka thinks playing in the Europa League can help Everton's Premier League campaign.

The Toffees will play their first European match for five seasons when they take on German side Wolfsburg at Goodison Park on Thursday night.

Many teams struggle to cope with the demands of both competitions, but Jagielka sees it as a positive.

The England defender said: "We performed at some good levels last year to get us into this competition.

 

"We were all upstairs in the canteen waiting for the draw to be announced and it was good fun. A couple of weeks have passed since then and everyone's really excited at the prospect of playing Thursday night football.

"The manager's put a very good squad together, the squad's very hungry obviously. Early in the season everyone's trying to nail down their positions.

"We can't get enough games. Two games a week, as long as we stay injury free, will suit us to a T.

"It's all about momentum. At the start of the season we didn't particularly play too badly but we didn't manage to find any momentum. We conceded far too many goals and didn't see out games.

"Since we came back from the international break it's all about us getting that ball rolling, getting clean sheets, getting goals, getting wins.

"If we can get the snowball effect moving towards Christmas, hopefully pick up as many wins as we can in every competition we're in, hopefully we can have an exciting second half of the season."

Jagielka played in Everton's last European game, a 3-0 defeat by Sporting Lisbon in February 2010, which marked his comeback from a long spell out with a cruciate ligament injury.

Since then he has become the Toffees' captain, and he said: "It's another opportunity for me.

"I've captained the team for a year. It'll be the first opportunity to captain the team on a Thursday night. A very proud moment again.

"A lot of my friends and family will be here. We've already spoken about how special night games are at Goodison. Obviously the added spice of it being a European fixture as well will be very special, but we've got to go out there and perform well and get the right result."

Nicklas-Bendtner.jpg
Former Arsenal striker Nicklaus Bentdner could play for Wolfsburg

Everton have not lost any of their five previous European games against German opposition but manager Roberto Martinez expects Wolfsburg to offer stiff competition.

Their squad contains familiar names like former Chelsea man Kevin de Bruyne, ex-Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner and the hugely experienced Ivica Olic.

"Wolfsburg are a really well-structured team," said Martinez. "They've got a really good balance, really good experience, full internationals, players that know how to play on these sort of occasions.

"De Bruyne is a player we know from his Chelsea time but I think he's gone on to the next level and is a really important player in the forward play alongside Olic.

"They've got a really strong side. But we're playing at home. We're going to make sure we are the team that sets the tempo of the game.

"We're really looking forward to facing a team of the quality of Wolfsburg. I do feel they could easily be a team playing in the Champions League."

PA

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