As memories of that 10-game unbeaten run begin to fade you can forgive Chris Hughton for taking a nervous glance over his shoulder. Having looked relatively safe after that blistering autumn run Norwich find themselves perilously perched just four places and six points above the Premier League drop zone. While they still hold the accolade of being the last English side to beat Manchester United the Canaries have yet to record a top-flight victory in 2013 with three consecutive draws highlighting their recent struggle. In fact it’s been nine matches since they tasted league success and Hughton will need to utilise the managerial prowess that saw him succeed in the face of adversity at Newcastle and Birmingham. Drawing goals out of January signing Luciano Becchio will be first on his agenda with games against Southampton, Wigan and Sunderland on the horizon and he’ll hope the Argentinian can notch his first for the club against Everton.
It’s at this point in the season that the Toffees usually start to hit their stride after a sluggish beginning. However this term they have displayed a ruthless consistency that has propelled them to within a whisker of the top-four and Champions League football. Whether or not they manage to claim a place amongst continents elite this will be viewed as a campaign of real progress for the Merseyside club and the Europa League will be a more than welcome consolation prize. But with David Moyes recently revealing he won’t discuss a new contract until the summer and European football will fulfil a personal ambition to take Everton to the next level. With Arsenal and Tottenham blocking their route into the top-four Moyes is sensitive to the face his side need to improve on their recent run of one in in five league games by beating Norwich with conviction at Carrow Road on Saturday.
Grant Holt is back for Norwich after shaking off a back injury but midfield duo Alexander Tettey and Andrew Surman are major doubts.
Everton will test Victor Anichebe fitness before kick off after he picked up a knock in the FA Cup draw with Oldham. Injuries to Seamus Coleman and Tony Hibbert mean January signing John Stones could debut at right back.
What the managers said…
“We’ve looked solid as a unit and I can’t fault the lads work ethic.,” said Hughton, “Everybody is putting in a real shift for the team and from that aspect I’ve been delighted. But we perhaps just need to be that little bit more creative, we certainly need to be taking our chances and perhaps need to be a bit more of a threat in the final third. I’m realistic enough to know that at points this season our attacking play has been good, but for a club like ours it’s difficult to sustain that in this league, week-in-week-out. There will be ups and downs. You just have to hope that when you get the good period you get the points to go with it.” Chris Hughton wants Norwich to show more creativity in the attacking third (Norwich official website)
“I don’t think he’s firing on all cylinders. I think he’s not returned the way I would like him yet. He’s still getting used to the Premier League and I think he’s got to create me more goals and he’s got to score me more goals. That’s what I’m waiting for him to do. He knows that, I’ve told him that, and we’re hoping for more. His form at the start of the season was excellent and we saw what he’s capable of. I don’t think we’ve really had that off him yet since he came back from his injury.” David Moyes challenges Kevin Mirallas to rediscover his early season form (Everton official website)
Pre-Match Statistic: A 3-2 success in 2004 is Everton’s only win at Carrow Road in the last 23 years (nine visits)
Prediction: Norwich City 2-2 Everton