Saturday sees Everton take on Norwich City with the Toffees returning to league action following a penalty shootout defeat to Championship outfit Queen’s Park Rangers in the Carabao Cup earlier this week. Still in the early stages of the season, a win against the Canaries could take Everton into fourth-place for a few hours at least when looking at the Premier League table.
Despite the loss against QPR and defeat to Aston Villa last weekend, the Blues still go into the clash with Norwich as heavy favourites. Best described as a ‘Yo-Yo club’, Daniel Farke’s team won the Championship for the second time in three years last season and are now back in the top-flight.
The Canaries though have experienced a woeful time back in the Premier League so far. Five defeats in five games - in which they have conceded 14 and scored just two – leaves Norwich rooted to the bottom of the league table in 20th place.
Farke’s side lost out 3-0 at home to Everton’s near neighbours Liverpool in midweek as they also exited the Carabao Cup, while their last league outing saw City beaten 3-1 at Carrow Road by fellow newly-promoted outfit Watford.
Though Norwich have struggled to survive in the top-flight on numerous occasions now, their previous meetings with Everton are pretty much on an ‘even keel’. The Canaries have been victorious 2-0 in both of their previous trips to Goodison Park, while the Toffees claimed the win away at Norwich by a scoreline of 1-0 in the 19/20 campaign.
Michael Keane headed home the winner that day, though there were no fans there to see it. One of the first few games played out in ‘Project Restart’ when the Premier League got underway again after initially pausing at the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the highlights are a stark reminder of how much supporters mean to the sport in general.
And now with Goodison back at full capacity, there’s no doubting that Keane and all of his Everton teammates would love to grab the winner in front of nearly 40,000.
Manager Rafa Benitez confirmed a mixed bag of news for Everton fans in relation to injuries during his pre-match press conference.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford will return to the side having missed the last two matches with a shoulder injury, and fullback Lucas Digne is also available for selection. The Frenchman pulled up shortly before the end of ‘normal time’ in defeat to QPR but has recovered quickly from a minor calf problem.
Midfielder Andre Gomes also picked up a calf injury during the midweek trip to London, though he hasn’t recovered and will be absent for the meeting with the Canaries.
‘Mixed’ is also the perfect word to describe Norwich’s respective injury situation as described by boss Farke in his own pre-match press conference.
The trio of Christoph Zimmermann, Przemysław Placheta and Todd Cantwell are all definitely going to miss the trip to Merseyside. Everton fans will be glad to hear about the latter’s absence especially, with Cantwell netting the opening goal in Norwich’s 2-0 win at Goodison in November 2019.
Milot Rashica was also said to be a doubt by his manager, though there was some positive news for the Canaries with the possibility of two players returning to action.
21-year-old Sargent was signed for a fee believed to be just over £8 million from Werder Bremen in the summer transfer window though is yet to find the net in the league for Norwich. He did score two in their 6-0 Carabao Cup whitewash of Bournemouth back in August, however.
When Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin don’t feature on an Everton teamsheet, there is certainly a fear of a lack of goals for the Toffees. So far this season, Andros Townsend has helped to plug that gap.
Three goals and three assists in all competitions from the winger isn’t bad going at this stage, and he has put in some consistently good performances overall too.
An experienced head, Townsend was signed this summer and wasn’t thought of as a ‘marquee signing’ by many, but perhaps is turning out to be in the context of Everton’s season. In what should be a routine win against Norwich, the 30-year-old could provide the spark.
Meanwhile, ‘threats’ are harder to come by when examining the Canaries squad list. In truth, it lacks quality, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to most to see Norwich go straight back down into the Championship again.
The most obvious threat remains the same as it was the last time they were in the Premier League and that’s frontman Teemu Pukki. Netting 11 goals in the 19/20 campaign, the Finland international has scored his team’s only two goals in the Premier League since their return.
A penalty against Leicester makes up half of that tally, but when he’s got both goals scored by the club in the league, you can’t not have him as the team’s main threat. There may well have been an argument for Sargent if this fixture was in a few weeks’ time, but Pukki it is for now.
Everton: Pickford, Holgate, Godfrey, Mina, Digne, Doucoure, Allan, Townsend, Gray, Iwobi, Rondon
Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Hanley, Kabak, Williams, Gilmour, Lees-Melou, McLean, Tzolis, Pukki, Dowell
Where to watch
Kicking off at 15:00 GMT on Saturday afternoon, Everton vs Norwich will not be televised live in the UK due to the ‘blackout’ in place. Highlights will be on Sky Sports and Match of the Day in the hours following on from full-time, while match coverage can be found on the Toffees social media accounts.