Even the most pessimistic of Evertonians would have struggled to predict just how significant a January away trip to Norwich City would be at the start of the season.
However, that is the position Everton currently find themselves in, slumped in 15th with just the one league win to their name since September. Fortunately for them, the Canaries are in an even more precarious scenario, propping up the table with just 10 points to their name to the Blues’ 19 and having played a game more. That being said, it’s hard to imagine that morale in Dean Smith’s camp is much gloomier than that of Rafael Benitez’s.
Out goes Digne, In comes El Ghazi
The long-drawn out saga between the Spaniard and Lucas Digne reached its conclusion earlier this week when the Frenchman completed a £22.5 million move to Aston Villa. The announcement prompted outrage online from a large majority of the fanbase and the ill-feeling will undoubtedly hang over the match at Carrow Road.
The Blues who do make that trip to East Anglia may also get to see a couple of new faces with Nathan Patterson still waiting to make his first appearance after arriving from Rangers in the first week of January. On the same day of Digne’s departure, the loan capture of Anwar El Ghazi from the Birmingham club was also confirmed, and the Twitter announcement claimed the Dutchman is available for selection to face the Canaries.
Amidst all the doom and gloom surrounding the club since Everton’s unconventional 3-2 win over Hull City in the FA Cup the week before, one piece of hugely positive news did emerge with several players returning to full training, the most notable being Richarlison and Yerry Mina. Benitez did not confirm whether the two would be available to play tomorrow but the likelihood would be that they are not rushed into action so soon after recovery.
One to watch – Dominic Calvert-Lewin
However, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was rested at Hull as a precaution, has been fit for a few weeks now and will hopefully be feeling a lot sharper than he looked in Everton’s defeat to Brighton two weeks ago. A start against of the leakiest defences in the league could be just what the Toffees’ talisman needs to click back into gear.
But by no means can Everton write this game off as an easy win. They have only won once in the league since they last faced Norwich at the end of September. Back then, the Blues had made a blistering start to the season and a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Andros Townsend and Abdoulaye Doucoure saw them climb to 5th.
It is a far cry from where the side find themselves now but Benitez will be hoping that last week’s success in the cup, as well as the prospect of key men returning to the side in the coming weeks, can be enough to reinvigorate his players.
But the Canaries are no pushover and Everton are in no position to believe they can beat anyone at the moment. While Dean Smith’s appointment has done little to stem the tide, having scored none and conceded 16 in their last six matches, they will be licking their lips at the chance to take on a side so bereft of confidence as ours.
One to Watch – Max Aarons
A player that has seemingly linked with Everton for several years now, Max Aarons has not quite had the same impact he had in his first Premier League campaign two years ago. But he will be coming up against Vitalii Mykolenko, who is still finding his feet in the English game, and the right-back’s explosive pace, as well as the presence of the tricky Przemyslaw Placheta, will undoubtedly give the Ukrainian one or two things to think about on Saturday.