Everton boss Roberto Martinez says that the Europa League can provide the perfect stepping stone for his side as they look to break into the top four of the Premier League.
The Toffees finished fifth in last season's league table, one spot behind the Champions League qualification places, but Martinez doesn't think that this is necessarily a bad thing - as he is unsure whether his side is ready for that step-up yet.
Instead, he plans to use the Europa League as a practising tool to get used to European football.
"I do feel maybe we were not ready for Champions League football, even though we fought hard to get into the top four," Martinez told The Mirror.
“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.
“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.”
Everton have made a rather stuttering start to their season, but it is threatening to kick into life now.
Martinez's side took four games to get their first win in the Premier League but, after a 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion, they will be looking to climb back up the table and emerge as dark horses for a top-four spot once again.
The Spanish boss had Everton playing with a style of play that won many admirers last campaign and, backed with funds this summer, he has further strengthened the squad.
Qualifying for the Champions League would be a major shock, but under Martinez's stewardship the Toffees are unquestionably moving forward and the stability they have may count in their favour as the season progresses.
The club's attention, until Thursday at least, will be on the Europa League, though. The competition is often derided by English clubs, but it sounds as if Martinez is keen to play his strongest line-up in the tournament and aim to progress as far as possible.
They start their campaign with a game against Wolfsburg at Goodison Park, and it should be a good test to kick off their European adventure.