Europa League excites Baines

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Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Leighton Baines is not letting himself think too much about Everton’s chances of winning the Europa League yet but admits he is excited about the way their continental campaign is shaping up.

Ahead of Thursday’s home clash with Lille, the Merseysiders – playing in Europe this term for the first time in five seasons – are top of Group H and unbeaten after three rounds of matches.

A 4-1 victory over Wolfsburg at Goodison Park was followed by two away draws, 1-1 at FK Krasnodar and 0-0 at Lille, and three more points on matchday four would see Roberto Martinez’s men take a significant step towards the knockout stages.

Toffees full-back Baines was part of the club’s run to the last 32 of the Europa League in 2009-10.

And asked if he believed Everton could go all the way this time in a tournament that now has a route into the Champions League as a reward for the winners, the 29-year-old said: “It’s a really long competition so you don’t want to look too far ahead.

“But we are excited about where we are at at the moment.

“We will look to consolidate our position with a good result against Lille, and there are going to be some really exciting ties if we can get out of this group. So that is the focus at the moment.

“I think we may be better-equipped this time with the strength in depth we have got.

“We’re also probably in a tougher group than before in terms of the standard of the teams.

“So, with that in mind, we have gotten ourselves into a good position, and we have two of the last three games at Goodison, where we will expect to win.”

Although they have impressed in Europe, Everton made a shaky start to the season domestically, but their results have picked up of late.

With the Toffees having lost only one of their last seven games in all competitions, Baines feels the club are getting back to the levels they were at last term, when they came close to claiming Champions League entry via the Barclays Premier League, finishing fifth.

And on a personal level, the England defender is in no doubt that playing well in Europe for his club is important for his international career.

Asked if he thought he is playing the best football of his career at the moment, Baines said: “It is always difficult to judge, but I am certainly enjoying my football.

“We’ve picked up our form as a team and are getting back to the standards we had set previously. I’ve enjoyed being part of that for sure.

“Playing in Europe has definitely been a good bonus for us this season and I think being a part of that stands you in good stead on the international stage.

“It gives the manager (Roy Hodgson) the assurances you can play at that level.”

Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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