Everton will look to make amends after their early exit from the EFL Cup when they host basement boys Norwich City on Saturday afternoon.

Everton’s flying start to the season was stunted by back-to-back defeats in the Premier League and Carabao Cup. They were forced to come back from behind twice to draw with QPR in the fourth round of the EFL Cup, but the Toffees’ efforts were all fruitless as the game was settled from 12 yards, and they also endured a 3-0 crushing at Aston Villa last Sunday.

The Rafael Benitez transition has, therefore, lost some steam. Still, Everton boast a decent tally of ten points from their opening five league fixtures and are firmly in the mix with European chasers, sitting sixth in the league standings. They will fancy a positive result when they welcome Norwich to Goodison Park, which has been a fort for them as they have bagged all nine points possible from three home fixtures so far.

Norwich, meanwhile, have had another difficult start to life in the top-flight this season. The Canaries were defeated 3-1 by Watford last week and emphatically beaten 3-0 by a second-string Liverpool side in the midweek cup tie. They will be eager to register their first points on board in this game. And ahead of their meeting with Everton on Saturday, The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at both the squads.

Team News & Tactics

Everton

Everton manager Rafael Benitez has to make do without several key players for this fixture as he expects Richarlison (knee), Jordan Pickford (shoulder) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (quadriceps) to be sidelined for at least another two or three weeks, while Seamus Coleman is unlikely to return before the end of the month with a hamstring issue.

Andre Gomes and Lucas Digne have both been struggling with calf strains, but will hope to recover in time to play on Saturday, while Fabian Delph is certainly out and Jean-Philippe Gbamin is questionable due to a quadriceps problem. Moreover, James Rodriguez has belatedly left Everton after agreeing to join Qatari club Al-Rayyan.

Benitez may prefer a direct 4-4-2 setup to enable his side to go fast and effective on turnovers. Asmir Begovic, the club’s second-choice shot-stopper, will be hoping to have a better evening in goal after already conceding five goals in the last two games against Aston Villa and QPR replacing an unavailable Pickford.

The centre-back pairing of Yerry Mina and Michael Keane will have the job to keep things tight at the back while playing some delightful direct long balls for their forwards. In the absence of Coleman, Ben Godfrey will face his former club as a makeshift right-back again. He has decent experience in this role, having been deployed frequently in the past.

Lucas Digne will be fit enough to start at left-back and will aim to deliver better quality crosses into the box for the strikers. Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure are set to be restored in the engine room after being rested in the midweek, while former Arsenal winger Alex Iwobi and Andros Townsend will be slotted on the flanks to make it a midfield quartet.

Summer arrivals Saloman Rondon and Demarai Gray will be the two strikers, having shown good link-up play in recent games. Rondon will be the target-man while Gray would flounder around in a much freer role to exploit the spaces making those intelligent runs using his strength and pace.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Begovic; Godfrey, Keane, Mina, Digne; Townsend, Allan, Doucoure, Iwobi; Gray, Rondon

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Norwich City

Similar to his counterpart, Norwich boss Daniel Farke might have to contend with several injury issues. Todd Cantwell may be allowed to return to Norwich after missing out against Liverpool due to personal circumstances, while Przemyslaw Placheta (COVID-19), Sam Byram (thigh) and Christoph Zimmermann (ankle) remain sidelined.

Farke might keep faith in the 4-3-3 system but with heavy personnel changes from the midweek game. Angus Gunn had a forgettable night in goal against Liverpool and would be replaced by Tim Krul, while Brandon Williams and Ozan Kabak might be recalled into the defence to shut shop at the back alongside Max Aarons and Grant Hanley.

Pierre Lees-Melou and Lukas Rupp will be the workhorses in the midfield, Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour will provide the defensive assistance while also bringing the attacking push with his ball-carrying ability from the centre of the park.

Teemu Pukki will play up top, leading the line with Milot Rashica, and Josh Sargent, who was left out of the team in midweek, could also return to the frontline.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Krul; Aarons, Kabak, Hanley, Williams; Lees Melou, Gilmour, Rupp; Sargent, Pukki, Rashica

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Key Stats

  • Everton have won four of their past seven league meetings with Norwich at home(D2 L1). However, the last encounter between these two sides at Goodison Park resulted in an exciting 2-0 win for the Canaries.
  • Norwich have not won a single away game in 14 attempts since their triumph over Everton back in 2019 and have failed to keep up with the Premier League’s demanding standards.
  • Everton has a better head-to-head record, having won 25 of the 61 total games played between the two sides, compared to Norwich City’s 18 wins.
  • Norwich City boss Daniel Farke has lost 15 straight Premier League games and will seek to register their first points this season against Everton on Sunday.
  • Everton have won three straight home league games for the first time since September 2019 and will seek to continue their winning streak this weekend.

Player to watch for

Saloman Rondon

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There are many doubts cast over Rondon’s competency at the top level after his brief spell in China, but he possesses a few very valuable traits that suit Benitez’s system and direct approach perfectly. He’s one of the few pure target-men left in the Premier League, boasting an excellent aerial ability and great hold-up play.

He wins almost every aerial duel he contests and tries to bring the ball down or flick it into the path of on-rushing wide players like Townsend or Gray. He can create a nuisance of himself in the opposition box and attracts defenders attraction. Apart from his physical abilities, Rondon has a powerful shot in his locker and is not bad at taking thunderous free-kicks.

Above his striking qualities, his work-rate is always excellent, and he comes to the back to help defenders deal with clearances. He will take some time to rediscover his touch in the Premier League, but with Dominic Calvert-Lewin injured for a while now, he could come in very handy for Everton.

Predictions

Everton 2-0 Norwich City

Norwich fans may be feeling quite optimistic about producing a shock victory, or even a point would do to stop their barren run at Goodison Park, considering the hosts’ injury woes. But Rafael Benitez will set his side up in an organised manner and will look to exploit Norwich’s defensive frailties on fast-paced counters and set-piece situations using the strong presence up top in Rondon.

Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray have improved significantly since their respective moves to the blue half of Merseyside will spell danger for the visitors and given the electric atmosphere at Goodison Park, backing the homeside, The Hard Tackle is predicting a 2-0 win for Benitez & co. to put their European push back on the map.

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