This Saturday at Goodison Park the Premier League clash between Everton and Norwich City provides an intriguing match up of two in-form teams looking to continue on their current good runs.
Ordinarily this fixture might be seen as a straightforward home win for those looking at weekend coupons but in reality this may be closer to call than would be expected.
Firstly let’s look at the home side Everton. Much has been made of their good start to the season and David Moyes has had his team in and around the top 4 from the word go. From the first game of the season at home to Manchester United when they ran out deserved winners, the Toffees have bucked the usual trend of early season stuttering performances and disappointing results. They followed their victory over United with some even more impressive and blistering performances at Aston Villa and Swansea where they blew the opposition away.
However, in recent weeks despite a continuation of dominance during games they have failed to put their opposition to the sword much to Moyes’ consternation . A run of six consecutive games where they conceded the opening goal and failed to lose included four draws on the spin. Many of those were games they really should have won. The whirlwind start made by Everton has lost something of its ferocity and they’ll be very mindful that it doesn’t blow itself out.
The Blues go into the game having to shuffle the pack somewhat after what’s been a relatively settled period for team selection. Captain Phil Neville is facing a lengthy lay off after undergoing knee surgery. His replacement could be the ex-Man United man Darron Gibson, himself just returning from a two month spell on the sidelines. Another possible inclusion is the returning Ross Barkley who has spent the last two months on loan at Sheffield Wednesday. The teenager is tipped for big things by those in the know at Goodison and David Moyes will be hoping he is ready to step up as the season progresses.
Everton are also without key man Marouane Fellaini who will sit out this weekend’s fixture due to suspension, having collected five yellow cards already this season. David Moyes will be hoping the pacey Kevin Mirallas is fit to play after suffering a hamstring injury in their last home game against Sunderland a fortnight ago. The loss of one of their Belgians is enough of a concern but if both were to be absent it would certainly hamper Everton’s new found attacking prowess.
Saturday’s visitors, Norwich City, will go into this game with confidence and on a five game unbeaten run in the Premier League. New manager Chris Hughton appears to be stabilising the ship after a particularly rocky start which included hammerings at the hands of Fulham, Liverpool and Chelsea. Defensive struggles are seemingly under control now however, as The Canaries have racked up three clean sheets in a row, and four in the last five games. During this current run of form, nobody could fail to have been impressed with the performances against Arsenal and Manchester United at Carrow Road as Norwich took maximum points with a pair of 1-0 wins. They have also produced solid displays at Reading and at home to Stoke as they have pushed themselves into the mid-table pack and begin to look something like the side Paul Lambert guided to 12th place last season.
With this new found solidity Hughton will be hoping his men can blunt Everton’s possibly weakened attack while capitalising on their leaky defence. The Blues have failed to secure a shut-out since September, eight games ago.
Everton’s home record may just be enough to see them prevail in this tight encounter, but Norwich are likely to prove tough opponents in their present mood. Prediction Everton 2-1 Norwich