Everton vs. Norwich City: Preview and Prediction

Brian Canever@briancaneverCorrespondent INovember 21, 2012

NORWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 07:  Steven Pienaar of Everton is challenged by Grant Holt of Norwich during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Everton at Carrow Road on April 7, 2012 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

When Everton and Norwich City meet this upcoming Saturday, far more than three points will be on the line for the Merseyside club.

Following an explosive start to the season that saw David Moyes’ side among the top four after 10 matches, the Blues suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat away to Reading last week and must regain their composure if they are to stay among the Premier League elite come the end of the month.

In the next three weeks, Everton will face Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at home with Manchester City away in the league.

Norwich City, in spite of a poor start to the season, are not the pushovers many predicted following the departure of Paul Lambert in the summer and their opening day implosion against Fulham.

As they showed in last week’s galvanizing 1-0 defeat of Manchester United, this side can still play football and are quickly returning to form under the serious management of former Newcastle United and Birmingham City boss Chris Hughton.

If Everton are to come away from the match at Goodison Park with a victory, they must find a way to get Nikica Jelavic back among the goals. Already the team with the most shots in all of Europe, Everton are not putting away nearly enough chances and the profligacy of the Croatian striker is a blaring issue that must be addressed heading into the crowded winter calendar.

Once Darron Gibson and Kevin Mirallas are fit enough to cement their starting spots, results should improve. But, for now, an over reliance on Marouane Fellaini and terrible wastefulness on behalf of Steven Naismith, Steven Pienaar, and Jelavic, along with long-term injuries to Victor Anichebe and Phil Neville, find the squad in need of a confidence boost.

Norwich have not been as overly contingent on Grant Holt’s goalscoring pedigree as last campaign and the arrivals of Robert Snodgrass, Javier Garrido and Alexander Tettey have boosted the squad and maintained the same possession-based, fluid style that helped them light up the EPL last season.

Hughton’s side is still struggling for goals, with Holt only bagging three so far in the league, but remain unbeaten in the past five matches, with crucial home victories against Arsenal and Manchester United.

This game will likely prove too early for Kevin Mirallas, the Blues’ silky and agile winger, but Gibson may be called in to play alongside Leon Osman after playing more than an hour in an under-21 match last week for Everton and with Fellaini's one match suspension.

Moyes has clearly stated that he is bothered by Everton’s wastefulness in the final third and corrections will need to happen if the Liverpool club are to stay among the European places.

Norwich City will probably not figure among those top sides come May, but another scalp will surely keep the Canaries’ supporters happy. And, with confidence in their camp, along with the nervousness among Blues’ fans already expecting a return to the poor early season form that has afflicted the last four EPL seasons, anything could happen.


Probable lineups:

Everton (4-4-1-1) Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Heitenga, Baines, Naismith, Hitzlsperger, Gibson, Pienaar, Osman, Jelavic

Norwich City (4-4-1-1) Ruddy, Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Garrido, Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Holt

Prediction: 2-1