"We're all really, really excited," said Roberto Martínez as Everton FC prepare for their first home meeting with French opposition, LOSC Lille visiting in the tight Group H.
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Roberto Martínez says anticipation is high at Everton FC as LOSC Lille come to town for their 100th European game, with the Toffees looking to consolidate their place at the top of UEFA Europa League Group H.
The teams played out a goalless draw in northern France on matchday three, leaving Everton a point ahead of VfL Wolfsburg, two clear of LOSC and three in front of FC Krasnodar. Martínez is banking on home support to make the difference on Merseyside.
"It's easy to say that we really enjoyed our home game against Wolfsburg [a 4-1 win] and the other two away games have been phenomenal experiences," the manager said. "You're looking at playing at Goodison under the floodlights facing French opposition [at home] for the first time in our history, which is some stat. We're all really, really excited."
Martínez is keen for his side to cement their position against a LOSC outfit who have failed to score in four of their five visits to England. "[There's been] a real buzz about Goodison and it's really exciting looking forward to our home games. This group is very tight – six games so far and four draws – so we're really looking forward to making Goodison work to our advantage."
Everton's former LOSC forward Kevin Mirallas will be absent with a hamstring injury while defender Antolin Alcaraz dislocated a shoulder during Saturday's goalless Premier League draw against Swansea City AFC. "We're enjoying the demands of this season, and the Europa League has brought a different challenge to the squad," Martínez continued. "We're starting to get the rewards from that. We have got 23 outfield players and they've all shown what they can do for the team."
LOSC have drawn all three matches so far, and will be missing injured pair Marcos Lopes and Jonathan Delaplace at Goodison Park. They did not win a single game in October, leaving them 12th in Ligue 1, but coach René Girard remains optimistic.
"I prefer not to talk about the future or the past, I prefer to talk about the present," he said. "The here and now is preparing for this game and I would say that we are all fine. They are good in their minds, their minds are focused, and everything is going well within the group of players."
Of Everton he added: "I believe that their league position at the moment [ninth] belies the quality that they have as a team. I consider Everton to be a top-five side in that league. They have some great players. Up front they've got players who can hurt you and even at the back they've got players like [Seamus] Coleman, who is also very good going forward – lots of quality throughout the side.
"A lot of the time when you think of English football in France you think of sides that are very physical and have got a lot of fighting spirit. However, this side know how to play football."