So, Norwich away.
I'm not going to this one as I didn't fancy a long trip to East Anglia for a stupid o'clock kick off, so I will be off to my Dad's house with a few fellow blues huddled around the TV with some beers and Michael Owen's commentary for company (I know, but he's growing on me).
After a frustrating couple of results in the Premier League, I'm sure Martinez and the players will be desperate to get back to winning ways against 16th place Norwich City. In spite of the frustration though, we have been playing some really good football and I think the general consensus is that there is a really good side here with bags of potential. The only issue is can this exciting young team become a winning team before our star players, namely John Stones and Romelu Lukaku, move on?
What comes to mind when you think of Norwich? Instantly I can't help but think of Alan 'smell my cheese' Partridge, his 'LIQUID FOOTBALL' commentary and his choice of favourite Beatles album. But a few footballing memories of Everton at Carrow Road do spring to mind:
The 04/05 season when we finished fourth. It was early(ish) in the season I think, and new signing Tim Cahill was fast becoming my favourite player. His reverse pass laid on an opener for Kevin Kilbane, before Marcus Bent raced through to slide us 2-0 in front. With it being Everton, we had to win it the hard way and Norwich came back into the game, making it 2-2 shortly after half time. Steve Watson's late cross was headed in superbly at the back post by the aging Everton hero Big Dunc and we left we all three points in a thrilling victory.
David Moyes' last season in charge saw us pushing up the table and we went 1-0 ahead through a Leon Osman header. Living in London at the time, I was following the game on my phone and, travelling back home my phone died with ten minutes remaining. By the time I got home, I flicked on final score and, to my horror, we had lost 2-1; I couldn't believe it. Goals coming through a Kei Kamara header and a last minute Grant Holt winner. I avoided Match of the Day that night.
Roberto Martinez's first game in charge. I remember this mainly due to a great performance from Ross Barkley, who scored his first Everton goal in emphatic fashion, shifting the ball onto his 'weaker' left foot and rocketing a strike beyond John Ruddy to equalise from 25 yards. Seamus Coleman then scored his first of seven goals that season and it looked like Martinez was starting off with a win. Alas, the £8.5million Ricky Van Wolfswinkel headed home his only goal for the club and denied Everton the three points.
How do Norwich shape up now? Former Everton goalkeeper John Ruddy has been dropped, so drop the 'y' and expect Declan Rudd to start in goal. Centre backs Bennett and Bassong were exposed time and time again by Ighalo and Deeney in a 2-0 defeat at Watford last weekend, so Lukaku may get some joy here. Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom and Martin Olsson are the full backs. In midfield, the speedy Redmond and Ireland international Robbie Brady provide pace and width, and expect the midfield to be packed with Dorrans, Tettey and Howson or Hoolahan, with just one up front – probably Lewis Grabban or Cameron Jerome.
Nothing too much to worry about on paper, although football is played on grass and they did play well against us earlier on in the season in the League Cup, where we had to win it on penalties. They have also had good results in their last two home games, beating Swansea 1-0 and drawing with Arsenal 1-1, a game they could have even won. With tough fixtures away at Man Utd and Spurs to follow, Norwich will be well up for this, so Everton will have to be at their best.
Enough about Norwich, how will Everton line up? In goal, number 24 Tim Howard, who is not exactly a fans favourite at the moment and hasn't been since a drop in standards following the 2014 World Cup finals. He did, however, make three good saves against Crystal Palace and so deserves some credit. The back four will be Coleman, Stones, Funes Mori and either Galloway or Leighton Baines, who Martinez has said is "very, very close" to being ready to complete 90 minutes.
How the midfield will shape up depends on the fitness of James McCarthy, who is said to be having a late fitness test. But Martinez is being a bit quiet with this one, which is not always a great sign, so I expect him to miss out. If he misses out then Cleverley should continue next to Barry in the middle and Kone will probably start on the left hand side, linking with Lukaku upfront. Although listening to the Radio Merseyside phone-in the other night, it sounds like a lot of people want to see Kevin Mirallas be given a start, which I tend to agree with.
I understand that Martinez may not want to risk Mirallas and Deulofeu in the same line up but I say why not? It would show great attacking intent. But if not, at least use him off the bench please, he is too good to be completely left out. The frustrated Naismith may play some part against the side that tried to sign him for £8million in the summer, after paper talk this week suggests he wants to leave. 'Diamond' Ross Barkley and the 'magic' Gerard Deulofeu will occupy the other attacking positions, giving Norwich manager Alex Neil something to think about.
This one won't be easy, it seldom is with Everton, but come on Blues, it's time now to turn potential into results.
Prediction: Norwich City 1-2 Everton
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