These two teams head into this Goodison Park clash with very contrasting objectives. Everton, beaten just once in their last ten Premier League games, are just one point from the top four places and are looking to mount a serious push for Champions League qualification. Norwich on the other hand are staring at yet another relegation battle as they sit in 15th position, just three points clear of the relegation places – currently occupied by Crystal Palace, West Ham and Sunderland. With fellow Champions league hopefuls Liverpool playing Stoke City at the difficult Britannia Stadium on Sunday, this could be an ideal chance for the blue half of Merseyside to retake that coveted fourth spot. Norwich will simply be looking for a win of any kind – the Canaries haven’t registered a win in the league in the last five games.
Both these teams are struggling with extensive injury lists after the busy festive period left most squads weakened in several key areas. Starting with Everton, Ross Barkley and Leighton Baines will both face checks to see if they’re fully fit for the game with Norwich. Two players who are almost certain to miss out on this game are Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka, both are expected to be fit for the Toffees’ next game but the first choice centre back pairing should both miss this game with hamstring injuries. Deulofeu is out until at least late January with the painful hamstring injury he suffered in December. Summer signing Arouna Kone and Irishman Darren Gibson are both out for the long term with knee and ACL injuries respectively.
It could be argued that Norwich are in an even worse state than Everton in terms of the number of injuries they are currently suffering from. Starting with the players who are doubtful for the weekend’s game, Norwich have Bradley Johnson, Bassong and Wes Hoolahan all suffering with various knocks and niggles which could see any of the three miss out. Pilkington and Tettey will definitely miss out with hamstring and ankle injuries keeping them out, respectively. Michael Turner is still missing with another hamstring injury, Howson also has a back injury with no return date set. Bennett is the final Norwich player to miss out with a troublesome knee injury.
Everton have registered an average of 55.49% possession in the league so far this season, compared to Norwich’s tiny 45.88% – the difference in class clearly visible through this single statistic.
Norwich are one of six teams on six clean sheets this season – Everton are in second place when it comes to the clean sheets kept table (only Arsenal have more, the Gunners sit on 9).
Norwich’s most creative player is Nathan Redmond – the Englishman has created four clear-cut chances for his teammates this season. No other player has created more than one.
Everton players have been dribbled past on 165 occasions so far this season – compared to 198 for Norwich players
One of Everton’s better qualities this season has been pressing teams into giving up possession, the Blues have won possession more times in every sector of the field than Norwich: Defending third – 456 vs 420, Middle third – 409 vs 335 and Attacking third – 49 vs 37.
The young, English midfielder has taken the Premier League by storm so far this season, with many pundits and supporters pointing towards a potential World Cup berth for the Evertonian. Barkley certainly seems a very promising all round player with goals coming from specialised free kicks as well as deep runs from midfield. As well as goals, Barkley has impressed with his tenacity and his mentality after recovering from a serious leg break earlier in his career. His work ethic is great too, the youngster wins possession back every 22 minutes – he’s done so 39 times in the Middle third alone. Barkley also has a flair for creativity – the midfielder has created 19 chances for his teammates so far this season.
Gary Hooper hasn’t had a completely comfortable first season in the Premier League but he’s been coming good of late and has scored some great goals for Norwich in recent weeks. So far, Hooper has managed to bag five goals from 19 shots this season – not bad by any standard. The Englishman also has a 33% clear-cut chance conversion rate which is very competitive – for context, Barkley’s is 0% from two possible clear-cut chances although the Everton man isn’t a natural finisher like Hooper. Hooper has an impressive pass completion rate for a player operating predominantly in the Attacking third for a below average Premier League team – currently 83.57% which just shades Ross Barkley’s 82.89%.
Personally, I can’t see anything but an Everton win here. Being a supporter of the team from the other side of Stanley Park I’d love to see Norwich do something extraordinary here but the fact is Goodison Park is an absolute fortress and Norwich have already lost ten games this season – so they aren’t exactly a resolute team. I’m going for Everton to win this game 3-0, possibly 4-0 if Norwich completely capitulate.