Kone to make Everton return against Krasnodar

Arouna Kone will make his long-awaited Everton return during Thursday's UEFA Europa League clash with Group H rivals Krasnodar.

Kone missed the bulk of last season with a long-term knee injury and has only managed to make the bench on two occasions this season.

However, with Everton already assured of top spot in the group ahead of their clash with the Russian side at Goodison Park, manager Roberto Martinez confirmed the striker will start the game. 

Bryan Oviedo will make his second start of the season after a broken leg and a knee problem in the past year, while Joel Robles, Christian Atsu, Steven Pienaar, Luke Garbutt and Tyias Browning will also start.

Martinez expects the game to be a celebration, both of Everton's successful group campaign and the return of Kone and Oviedo.

"I want to thank all the fans for the support they have given to Bryan Oviedo and Arouna Kone. [Thursday's game] is a celebration for them," he told Wednesday's pre-match news conference.

"Arouna is quite unique in what he brings so as a manager you welcome him back. He has plenty of experience and will make a difference.

"[Thursday] is a great chance to also see a little bit into the future with some of the youngsters that I am excited to see play.

"We have done our homework and we are unbeaten in the Europa League. Thursday is for our internal pride."

Kone worked alongside Martinez at Wigan Athletic - scoring 13 times in 38 games as the club won the FA Cup - but has seen his Everton career hampered by injury woes.

However, the Ivorian likened Thursday's outing to a second debut, adding that he felt fighting fit once again. 

"It's going to be fantastic [to start]. It'll be like making my debut again. It has been a long time coming," he explained.

"I've never been out as long as I have with this injury. I have had to be patient. In training I feel great."