Feb 182015

Everton boss Roberto Martinez has stressed his confidence that his players are ready for the challenge of facing Young Boys on the Swiss side’s artificial pitch.

In preparation for Thursday’s Europa League last-32 first leg, the Toffees have this week been training on a similar surface used by Everton Ladies and the Widnes Vikings rugby league team.

Young Boys have won all five of their European games at their Stade de Suisse home this term, including a 2-0 victory over Napoli.

And asked during his pre-match press conference at the stadium if he was worried about the pitch there, Martinez said: “Obviously it is a completely different surface and the bounce of the ball is different.

“The home team are a bit more used to those conditions.

“But from our point of view, we have done our preparation right – the whole week we have been working on that sort of surface, and I feel we are ready.

“I think it is more about making sure we don’t do too much, because I think recovering from working on this sort of surface can take a little bit longer than with natural grass.

“But overall, we are ready as a team to be able to perform and be ourselves tomorrow, and it is not an excuse or a reason for us not to be able to compete in the game.”

Everton legend and coach Duncan Ferguson looks on as Seamus Coleman, Romelu Lukaku and Phil Jagielka train in the Stade de Suisse ahead of facing BSC Young Boys in the Europa League VIEW GALLERY

Everton, who are enjoying their first continental campaign in five seasons, head into Thursday’s match off the back of an impressive effort in the group stage.

They accrued 11 points en route to claiming top spot in Group H, with their only loss coming after that position had been secured.

However, their domestic form has been more disappointing, with them having made early exits in both cup competitions and winning only two of their last 13 Barclays Premier League fixtures, a sequence that has featured seven defeats.

Martinez, whose side came fifth in the Premier League last season but are 12th at the moment, hopes continued success in Europe can help the Merseysiders gain some momentum in what remains of their top-flight campaign.

The Spaniard said: “For us to be involved in the Europa League is a phenomenal opportunity to grow as a team and it is something we need at the club.

“European football is something that needs to run in our DNA and we want to have this on a consistent basis.

“In terms of the season, we have never had a real momentum in the league and that has been affecting us in our results.

“But we have been pristine in Europe and, now, in the knockout stages we are really excited and looking forward to it.

“We embrace the competition and we want to take this competitive edge into the Premier League and finish the season as strong as we can.”

Full-back Leighton Baines and midfielder Aiden McGeady are among eight Everton players not to have made the trip to Bern for the game.

Both have missed the last two matches due to knee complaints, although Martinez has suggested Baines will be fit for Sunday’s Premier League home clash with Leicester.

As well as that pair, the travelling party is also missing Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar and Arouna Kone – a trio in action for the under-21s side this week as they worked on their fitness – plus Tony Hibbert (unspecified).

Sylvain Distin was available but not selected and Aaron Lennon is the other absentee as he is cup-tied, having already featured in the Europa League for Tottenham this season.

However, Lennon’s fellow on-loan winger Christian Atsu is back in the squad after playing for Ghana at the African Nations Cup and being ineligible to face his parent club Chelsea last week.

Phil Kirkbride reaction in Berne Video loading

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