Europa League success could be key to Everton's season after tough start

Ronald Koeman, Manager of Everton shows appreciation to the fans after Premier League match between Everton and Watford at Goodison Park on May 12, 2017 in Liverpool, England.

Having lost their last two Premier League games, the pressure is on Everton to deliver a positive result in the Europa League on Thursday.

Ronald Koeman, Manager of Everton looks on prior to the Premier League match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on September 9, 2017 in Liverpool, England.

It has not been the start to the season Everton fans hoped for, even if everything was going to plan after 45 minutes of their second Premier League game.

Leading 1-0 for the second week running - this time at Manchester City - Ronald Koeman's side were also well on their way to the Europa League group stage and had Wayne Rooney back in form.

Since then, things have been a little bumpy.

Wayne Rooney of Everton is dejected during the Premier League match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on September 9, 2017 in Liverpool, England.

While Everton qualified for Europe, they have lost their two subsequent league games and saw the transfer window shut without a new striker signed.

Considering the Toffees' outlay, a top-four finish and Champions League football may well have been the target this term; already, at this early stage, that looks highly unlikely.

And so if Everton are going to make a success of this season - and not simply cruise to another seventh-placed finish - they may well have to turn their attentions to the cup competitions and, in particular, the Europa League.

Sandro Ramirez of Everton in action during the UEFA Europa League Third Qualifying Round, First Leg match between Everton and MFK Ruzomberok at Goodison Park on July 27, 2017 in Liverpool,...

Manchester United showed last year that, by prioritising European competition, winning the tournament and qualifying for the Champions League that way was an achievable goal.

Everton will surely, bizarrely, face less competition en route to the Europa League final than they would in challenging for the Premier League's top four.

That is not to say there will not be tough tests, however, and Atalanta - Thursday's opponents - are certainly one. A positive result will be key to ensure their campaign remains on track.

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