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Everton at Norwich City: Match Preview

Blues at Canaries in early game

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Everton dropped points at home last weekend drawing with Crystal Palace after dominating the game and hitting the woodwork on three separate occasions. The Blues cannot afford to waste any more points this weekend playing at Norwich City. However, the Canaries have been more than decent at home and gave the Blues everything they could handle during the Capital One Cup game at Merseyside.

The Opposition

Norwich City are not quite enjoying their latest return to the Premier League. Manager Alex Neil has struggled to remain competitive especially after resounding defeats to fellow strugglers Newcastle United and Watford. The last time the Canaries played at Carrow Road they held Arsenal to a 1-1 scoreline.

Neil's challenge this weekend might not be attempting to outwit Roberto Martinez. His biggest battle will be getting his own players to believe that they can beat Everton, boosted by the draw at Goodison Park in October.

Norwich are close to the bottom of the League in both tackles and interceptions per game when playing at home. They also predominantly favor the right wing for attacks, more than the left side and the middle, in that order.

Team News

The Blues will give midfielder James McCarthy a late fitness test ahead of the game. Should the player not make it, Tom Cleverley will be ready to step in like he did against Crystal Palace on Monday.

Left back Leighton Baines might get the start after two consecutive games of being substituted into the game in the second half. His setpiece deliveries have been sorely missed, and could have easily made the difference against Palace when the Blues had more corners than they knew what to do with.

The Last Word

Having wasted points against Palace and Bournemouth, Everton simply have to put Norwich away today if the team has any aspirations of Europe next season. Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu are in fine form, and the game plan should be developed to cater them with the ball and let the pair do their thing.

Last weekend Norwich's centrebacks were dominated by Watford's Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. No shame there, as even Phil Jagielka and John Stones didn't exactly shine against that pair. But with the kind of form Lukaku is in right now, it would be a travesty if the Blues didn't hoof the ball forward to the Belgian at every single opportunity and let the big man put the Canaries to the sword.

Predicted Starting XI

Arouna Kone has not been as effective as he was in partnership with Lukaku a month ago, and should be dropped. Since Roberto Martinez seems strangely reluctant to play two out-and-out wide men at the same time, expect Steven Naismith to get the start indeed, which should work just fine. The scrappy Scotsman might be a better fit for this game's requirements anyway.

Brendan Galloway was rewarded for his excellent play with a new contract that stretches through to 2020, but will drop to the bench and let Leighton Baines back into the starting lineup.

Howard; Baines, Funes Mori, Stones, Coleman; Barry, Cleverley; Naismith, Barkley, Deulofeu; Lukaku.