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Can Everton take a step closer to Wembley?

Toffees face Norwich in EFL Cup third round

Everton v Norwich City - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Supporting Everton has become fun again.

The thought of watching the Toffees play twice in four days would have filled me with dread last season such was the tortuous nature of their play under Roberto Martinez.

Fast forward a few months and eager Evertonians everywhere are chalking off the hours before they can see the boys in blue again.

There is no doubt that the fixture list has been relatively kind – the likes of West Brom, Stoke and Sunderland are hardly world-beaters. But Everton have had easier starts over the past 38 years and on no occasion did they collect more than the 13 points they currently have from their opening five games.

It’s difficult to pick any discernable weakness in the side at present. Solid at the back, dynamic in midfield and razor sharp up front, the contrast from last season’s rabble couldn’t be greater.

The rapid transformation only serves to highlight the wonderful job done by Ronald Koeman in such a short space of time.

Everton even rose to the dizzying heights of second following Saturday’s 3-1 win over Middlesbrough, their fourth consecutive league victory. A quick glance at the fixture list suggests things could get even better in the coming weeks.

Before our Premier League adventure continues though we have the small matter of an EFL Cup tie against recently relegated Norwich.

I’m sure you don’t need reminding that Everton’s trophy drought is about to extend into a 22nd year while the League Cup, in all its various guises, has always eluded the Toffees.

Koeman has already stated his intention to name a strong side and given Everton’s form there’s no reason why they can’t have a real good go at this competition.

However, I’ve spoken previously about Everton’s dreadful record in this competition so I am never going to take any fixture for granted, even if we will head into Tuesday’s match as heavy favourites.

The opposition

Despite the Canaries suffering relegation last season they have made a decent start to the new campaign and sit second in the Championship after victory at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

Everton faced Alex Neil’s side in the third round of the League Cup last season, with the Toffees progressing 4-3 on penalties after the game finished 1-1 after extra-time.

In the two Premier League encounters it finished 1-1 at Carrow Road last December before Everton won 3-0 on the final day of the season with David Unsworth and Joe Royle in the dugout following Martinez’s sacking.

The game will see the return of a familiar face, with former Blue Steven Naismith included in the travelling Canaries squad.

The Scotland forward left Goodison Park for Norwich in January but couldn’t prevent the side from dropping out of the Premier League. He is sure to receive a warm reception from the home crowd on Tuesday.

Team news

Everton will definitely be without Romelu Lukaku after the striker suffered a foot injury against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Deadline day loan signing Enner Valencia is expected to make his first start in place of the Belgian.

Ronald Koeman has confirmed that Darron Gibson is out for three weeks after undergoing a groin operation.

James McCarthy is also expected to be out for another three weeks as he continues his recovery from a groin injury of his own.

Norwich boss Alex Neil has said he will make changes to his starting line-up with promotion back to the top flight his priority.

Final word

Everton will only have themselves to blame if they fail to beat a likely weakened Norwich team on Tuesday.

Our history in the competition should of course serve as a warning. But if they approach the game with the right attitude they are more than good enough to take a step closer to Wembley.

Predicted starting XI: Stekelenberg, Baines, Funes Mori, Jagielka, Holgate, Barry, Gueye, Deulofeu, Barkley, Bolasie, Valencia.