Roberto Martinez, the Everton manager, feels the poor condition of the pitch at Dynamo Kiev’s Olympic Stadium is “a concern” but he is sure it will be just as problematic for one side as the other in Thursday night's Europa League last-16 second-leg game.
Rather than training on the pitch at their opponents’ stadium as they normally would, Everton did a session on the running track surrounding the playing surface – while the turf was covered by a protective sheet – following their arrival in Ukraine yesterday.
When asked about the state of the grass, Martinez said: “The pitch is a concern for both teams. Dynamo Kiev are a technical team and they need a good pitch, and we are exactly the same.
“I don’t think it will play a big part in terms of giving a favour or advantage to either of the two sides. I think it is a little bit of a shame for the game of football that the pitch is not going to be in perfect condition.”
The tie is finely poised, with Everton leading 2-1 from the first leg at Goodison Park having come from behind. They face a Dynamo team who boast a formidable home record – this season they have won seven and drawn two of their nine games at the Olympic Stadium in the Ukrainian league, which they lead, and have won all four of their European fixtures there.
Although he knows securing a draw will be enough for Everton, Martinez – whose side are unbeaten in European away games this season and have won their last two – insists they will be aiming for another victory.
“I think for us it is very clear – we want to be ourselves,” he said. “We are not a team where we are focused on keeping a clean sheet. We want to enjoy ourselves on the pitch and score goals.
“We are facing a team we respect and admire immensely – they have a great record at this ground. It is very much about approaching the game as 90 minutes, in isolation, and trying to win it.
“I don’t think we are in a position where we can try to change the way we are as a team just in order to keep a clean sheet. It would be a major mistake to do that.”
Everton are without injured forward Kevin Mirallas in Ukraine but winger Aiden McGeady may return after more than a month on the sidelines with a knee strain. Midfielder Gareth Barry can be selected once more as his suspension applies only to domestic action, but winger Aaron Lennon is cup-tied.
The Dynamo coach, Sergei Rebrov, has called for more aggression from his side. Rebrov said: “We have to play in a different style to the first leg – to be more aggressive. We are at home and, with us having the support of our fans, we hope it will be a much different game.”
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