The last time Everton took on Norwich City, they had just received the welcome news that Landon Donovan would be joining the team on loan to provide the offense a shot in the arm - Donovan went on to be named 'Player of the Month' for January. This time around they prepare for their trip to Carrow Road with David Moyes' proclamation that transfer window signing Nikica Jelavic has the killer instinct that Everton have been searching for, with the gaffer dubbing him the 'silent assassin'.
The Toffees drew 1-1 at home with Leon Osman scoring a late equalizer after the Canaries' captain Grant Holt had opened the scoring in the first half. Everton had dominated that game with almost two-thirds of the possession and a hatful of chances, and ended up ruing their paucity in front of goal. Holt on the other hand found the banks of the Mersey as happy hunting grounds, having earlier scored at Anfield as well.
Everton spirits will be soaring after consecutive 2-0 wins in the Premiership carried them past Liverpool into seventh place, while Norwich have stuttered lately, picking up only four points in their last six games to drop them to tenth, four points behind the Blues. As much as Moyes will attempt to deny it, but he will have the upcoming FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool on his mind and with an Easter Monday game at Goodison against Sunderland you can expect some changes in the squad tomorrow.
There will be a little bit of behind-the-scenes intrigue in this fixture tomorrow, as Norwich manager Paul Lambert has been tipped to replace Moyes behind the Blues bench were Moyes to leave to take on Harry Redknapp's position this summer at White Hart Lane. However all those plans could be jeopardized if Stuart Pearce ends up being retained as the fulltime England manager, or if Everton hold on to seventh and win an FA Cup Final berth.
Team News -
Despite rumors that mercurial defender Royston Drenthe has packed up and left for Holland, the winger has in fact resumed training and is available to play. Midfielders Jack Rodwell and Seamus Coleman both remain out with injuries while Osman should be fit again after his minor ailment. Magaye Gueye has looked more and more like a Premiership player with each performance and could get some time on the field, especially as he will be expected to play left wing due to Steven Pienaar's ineligibility. Denis Stracqualursi could also see some minutes as Moyes will look to keep Jelavic and the rejuvenated Tim Cahill fresh. In defence, Phil Jagielka has fully recovered and poses a dilemma for Moyes as the pairing of Johnny Heitinga and Sylvain Distin has been rock-solid in the back.
Norwich welcome back Holt after a one-game suspension following a red card two weeks ago. Influential midfielder Anthony Pilkington is back in training but lacks match-fitness while defenders Daniel Ayala and Marc Tierney both exacerbated injuries in reserve games this week. Former Everton striker James Vaughan remains out with a knee injury.
Keys To The Game -
Everton have been very good in defence the last few games, pressing their opponents deep in their own half. Even with Moyes ringing in the changes, the core of the squad should keep their playing style consistent. Pienaar and Leighton Baines form one of the best left-wing tandems in the League possessing pace and guile, and pose a big threat to the Canaries' defences.
Norwich on the other hand play a freewheeling attacking style, alternating between a 4-1-4-1 and 4-5-1 depending on whether they are home or away. While not as incisive as Swansea can be with their ball retention and short passes, the team is laden with players looking to get the ball and take on the opponents. Wes Hoolahan is always a threat in the midfield area,
Match Facts -
Everton have only seven goals in their last nine away games.
Leighton Baines is set to make his 200th appearance for Everton tomorrow.
The three consecutive 2-0 wins over the Premiership and FA Cup mark a first in club history.
Everton have 99 away wins in the history of the Premiership going into this game.
Norwich have won two and drawn three of their last six home games in the Premier League.
Everton have not lost to Norwich in their last seven meetings across all competitions.