Apollon Limassol v Everton
6pm kick-off (UK time), 8pm kick-off (local time)
The Everton squad that has travelled to Cyprus represents an archetypal blend of youth and experience.
There are places for first-team fledglings Ademola Lookman and Beni Baningime in the party, which also features a host of more experienced faces, including Muhamed Besic, Nikola Vlasic, Joel Robles, Morgan Schneiderlin and Kevin Mirallas.
Teenager Morgan Feeney, who made his Toffees debut as a substitute in the home meeting with Atalanta a fortnight ago, is vying for another opportunity to impress.
Craig Shakespeare confirmed at Wednesday’s pre-match press conference that Sandro Ramirez and James McCarthy (hamstring) had not made the trip to Nicosia.
Everton’s form is incontrovertibly on the up. The Blues have acquired 10 points from their past five Premier League matches, with their only defeat in that period coming at Southampton.
This productive run was sparked by a tumultuous Goodison Park victory over Watford, and has latterly featured more straightforward successes over West Ham United and Huddersfield Town.
Domestically, then, Everton are in fairly decent nick, and travel to Cyprus as the 10th-placed team in the Premier League and reflecting on successive clean sheets.
The Toffees’ hopes of progressing in the Europa League were ended by a 3-0 loss in Lyon last month, the second of two defeats by the French side after October’s 2-1 reverse on Merseyside.
Limassol are similarly snookered in this competition, with group rivals Atalanta and Lyon already assured of their respective passages into the knockout stages.
The Cypriot team have nevertheless enjoyed a few highs on their European ventures this term. They fought back from losing a qualifying tie away at Aberdeen to win through with a second-leg victory over the Scots back on home territory.
And they have prised draws from their home encounters with Lyon and Atalanta in this group stage – striking deep into stoppage time on both occasions to thwart their more-fancied opponents.
The Cypriot Cup holders last won their national league in 2005/06, when they remained unbeaten all season. And Apollon are proving a similarly tough nut for their domestic foes to crack this term.
They have not lost any of their opening 11 matches – winning seven – and, despite sitting fifth, are nicely poised, seven points behind table-topping AEK Larnaca but with three matches in hand.
Apollon thumped sixth-placed Paphos 6-0 on Saturday, five days after beating rock bottom Ethnikos Achna 3-0.
ONE TO WATCH: Emilio Zelaya
The Argentine striker joined Apollon in the summer after spending one year with Ethnikos. Prior to his original move to Cyprus in August 2016, the 30-year-old had spent his entire career in South America.
He proved a hit in his first season in Europe, plundering 15 goals for a struggling Ethnikos side – and has continued in a similar vein this time round, with six goals in nine league outings.
Zelaya struck the dramatic 94th-minute equaliser that earned Apollon their Europa League draw with Italian side Atalanta.
He also scored two minutes after coming off the bench to settle the Cypriots’ qualifying tie with Aberdeen, and will come into this match brimming with confidence after netting twice in the rout of Paphos, to add to his goal earlier in the week against former club Ethnikos.
LAST TIME: Everton 2-2 Apollon Limassol
In hindsight, this was the one that got away from Everton in this Europa League group stage.
The Blues did all the hard work by overturning a one-goal deficit after Apollon had stunned Goodison by seizing an early advantage through Adrian Sardinero’s simple finish in front of the Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End.
Wayne Rooney swooped onto defender Hector Yuste‘s inexplicable error to draw Everton level, and when Nikola Vlasic sprinted onto Gyfli Sigurdsson’s measured through ball to score his first goal for the Club after half-time the contest had well and truly swung in the Toffees’ favour.
The home team were given a further leg up when Valentin Roberge was dismissed for stamping on Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
But with only two minutes to play, the Cypriots won a free-kick just inside their own half. It was pumped forward into the Blues’ penalty area, where the elusive Yuste applied the deftest of flicks to rescue a draw that was celebrated wildly by the away team and their supporters.
The result left Everton with one point from two matches and, as it transpired, an impossible mountain to climb with those back-to-back games against crack French outfit Lyon on the horizon.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Sébastien Delferiere
Belgian referee Delferiere has issued 36 yellow cards and two reds in just eight Jupiler League matches in his homeland this term.
The 36-year-old has handled two European games in 2017/18 - Bulgarian side Ludogorets’ 2-0 qualifying round victory over Suduva, and a 2-1 success for Lokomotiv Moscow in the Russians’ group stage win over Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova.
Delferiere first took charge of a professional match way back in 2007/08, when he dished out six yellow cards in a Belgian second-tier clash between RE Virton and KAS Eupen.
The match is being screened live on BT Sport 2 from 5.30pm, with kick-off at 6pm UK time.
As always, there will be free live audio commentary of Thursday’s contest here on evertonfc.com.
Click here to listen to broadcast duo Ian Snodin and Darren Griffiths’ coverage of the action on matchday.