The Toffees make the long trip East across the country to Norfolk to face Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday afternoon (kick off 15:00 GMT), aiming to keep their grip on 7th place in the Premier League table.
Whilst Paul Lambert’s men have won many plaudits and admirers during their first season in the top flight since 2004/05, they have found life tougher in the past few weeks with just one win against relegation threatened Wolves in their past six league matches.
Indeed, Norwich’s season has hit the buffers just as Everton’s has taken off, and the Canaries FA Cup exit at the 5th Round stage against Leicester City appears to have killed the momentum gathered from the first six months of the season.
Lambert has received praise from across the football world from taking a struggling League One side to back to back promotions, whilst also ensuring that the majority of the players he inherited when arriving at Carrow Road in August 2009, have proven to be the back bone of the side performing so well in the Premier League this season.
The stand out performer for Norwich this season has been striker Grant Holt, who at the age of 30 is playing in his first season in the top-flight after plying his trade in in lower leagues of English football for the majority of his career, playing for Barrow Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Rochdale, Nottingham Forest and Shrewsbury Town.
Also standing out in the Canaries squad this season has been winger Anthony Pilkington who has also made the step up from League One to the Premier League with relative ease following his summer move from Huddersfield Town.
Pilkington has fully complemented the Norwich squad, which also has players such as Wes Hoolahan, Russell Martin, David Fox and Marc Tierney who were part of the League 1 and/or Championship promotion sides.
The trip to Carrow Road will not be easy for Everton, as despite Norwich’s recent poor run of form, the Canaries have a solid home record, which has them lose on just four occasions in fifteen home matches so far this season.
Everton have a decent record at Carrow Road, losing just eight of thier twenty one league games away to the Canaries (winning six). The Toffees won the last league clash in Norfolk in October 2004 3-2, as Everton powered their way to a Champions League qualification place at the end of that season.
Carrow Road also brings happy memories for Evertonians from a May Bank Holiday Monday in 1987, as thanks to a rare Pat Van Den Hawue strike, Everton clinched their last league title at the expense of Liverpool.
This time around, Everton will be hoping to come away from Carrow Road without picking up any injuries or suspensions ahead of next week’s FA Cup Semi-Final, and with a home clash on Easter Monday against Sunderland to follow two days later, then David Moyes is likely to ring the changes across his team.
With Marouane Fellaini two yellow cards away from a suspension that would keep him out of the clash at Wembley next week, he is likely to be rested for one of the Easter matches over the holiday weekend.
Seamus Coleman and Jack Rodwell should be closer to a return to the Everton first team squad after their recent injuries, and could make the bench on Saturday ahead of possibly being considered for a return in the home clash with Sunderland on Monday.
Leon Osman should be fit after being taken off as a precaution with a stubbed toe in the 2-0 victory against West Bromwich Albion.
Norwich will be boosted by the return of leading marksman Grant Holt following a one match ban after his sending off in the Canaries 2-1 victory against Wolves, in which Holt scored a sublime equalizer to net his 12th league goal of the season.
Amongst the long term injury absentees in the Norwich squad, is former Everton striker James Vaughan who has missed the majority of the season with a knee injury. He was expected to return to action in early March; however he suffered a setback in his recovery and is unlikely to play again this season.
Former Liverpool defender Daniel Ayala is could be back on Saturday after missing the last two months with torn hamstring and Anthony Pilkington should also be fit after missing the past two matches, also with a less serious hamstring injury.
Saturday’s match should be an entertaining clash, as Everton will be keen to maintain their recent run of form and Norwich will also be looking to get their season back on track, particularly as they face difficult matches against Tottenham, Manchester City, Blackburn and Liverpool over the next month.
Whilst the game at Goodison was a 1-1 draw back in December, it was a game dominated by the Toffees who had the majority of possession and chances. Norwich defended admirably, but still allowed Everton plenty of the ball as they focused on catching the Toffees on the counter attack. I expect much of the same on Saturday, with Everton being allowed to play and control large parts of this game.
The difference from December to now however, is that Everton have far more confidence and have a greater threat in front of goal in the form of Nikica Jelavić.
Given the Toffees recent run of excellent form, anything less than three points would be disappointing and I expect Everton to come away with the win that should consolidate their grip on 7th place.
Norwich City 1 Everton 2