So here we go then, this is the real thing. No more of those pre-season friendlies, or exhibition games as they seem to be called these days. We're off to Carrow Road for our opening game, and on paper it’s certainly easier than we've had in recent years. Kind of.
Everton have started slowly in recent seasons - last year's win over Manchester United aside - and have lost seven out of their last ten opening games of the season. They haven't won away from home on the opening day since a 2-1 win over Charlton in 2001.
Head To Head
So it’s not that easy... Since Norwich City returned to the Premier League we’ve not beaten them. Our record of three draws and a defeat doesn’t make great reading. In that time Norwich have been decent but not brilliant, all of which means Martinez will lift expectations immediately if he can steer us to victory.
In The Blue Corner
The first thing we all want to see is what formation we go out with isn’t it? Despite teasing us with 3-4-3 at times over the last month, Roberto Martinez is expected to go with a more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation.
There’s also likely to be a certain familiarity about the team with none of the four new signings expected to start. Joel Robles is one for the future, Antolin Alcaraz is injured, Gerard Geulofeu will be kept back initially, and Arouna Kone will be kept out by the improved form of Nikica Jelavic.
What can we expect then? Well goalkeeper and the back four are nailed on. In the centre of the park Marouane Fellaini and Darron Gibson - fitness and last minute transfers allowing - will sit deeper, allowing Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar, and Ross Barkley to roam a little freer further up the pitch, supporting lone front man Jelavic. The really key thing will be how the attacking four can cope with the new passing strategy. Fellaini and Gibson will be facing the play most of the time, and their strengths lie in short direct passes. Expect the Irishman to keep the game ticking over, whilst Fellaini will be a little more dynamic. Ahead of them Mirallas is likely to be the furthest forward with Pienaar and the youngster Barkley being more mobile across the pitch.
Team sheet: Howard, Coleman, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Fellaini, Gibson, Barkley, Pienaar, Mirallas, Jelavic
In The Yellow And Green Corner
And what of our opponents the Canaries? Manager Chris Hughton generally likes his teams to play conservative, and despite signing two out and out strikers this summer Hughton doesn’t look like changing that thinking.
Norwich have spent well over the summer strengthening with those two strikers, Gary Hooper and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, costing around £13m between them. They look to be an upgrade on the lumbering battering ram Grant Holt, but neither has any experience in the Premier League, and we’ve seen how often the Scottish League have failed to prepare players for the tougher challenge in England. Unfortunately we won't be able to see what we missed out on with the much discussed Leroy Fer suspended. Will it be a case of what could have been, or thank god we missed out?
Team sheet: Ruddy, Martin, Garrido, Turner, Bassong, Pilkington, Snodgrass, Fer, Johnson, Hoolahan, Van Wolfswinkel
More from Royal Blue Mersey:
- Everton at Norwich City: Premier League Matchday 1
- Everton at Norwich City: Q&A with Paddy Davitt
- International Blues
- Everton Reserves
- Everton's Season Isn't Just About the Destination