Norwich City will continue to scrap for their lives at the foot of the Premier League table when they entertain an out-of-sorts Everton at Carrow Road this weekend.
Norwich are rock-bottom of the standings having only amassed 10 points all season, having scored just 8 times in the process as they face Everton.
Despite their woeful campaign, Dean Smith’s side have won more games than both Burnley and Newcastle United who occupy the relegation zone with them.
Norwich’s latest outing was a 2-0 defeat on the road at West Ham, their 6th top flight loss on the spin.
To make matters worse, they haven’t registered a top flight goal in 2 months, with November’s 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers Newcastle at St James’ Park the last time they found the target in league competition.
Although, with all that being said, the Canaries are remarkably still only 4 points from safety.
Their season has been bitterly disappointing, but many will have expected Norwich to immediately return to the Championship this season at the beginning of the campaign.
As such, due to the expectations surrounding their opponents on Saturday, it can be argued that in context Everton may well be having a rougher time of it this term.
Rafa Benitez’s appointment as Carlo Ancelotti’s successor at Goodison Park was always going to be met with discontent due to his Liverpool connections, but performances on the field in recent months have further soured any grace many Evertonians were prepared to give.
Everton sit 15th in the table having only won once in the Premier League since September, and although comfortably clear of any relegation fears as things stand, displays have been far from good enough.
In what is perceived by many to be a further increase in the pressure, the sale of fan-favourite full back Lucas Digne to Aston Villa for £25m was met with many a question mark from fans on Rafa Benitez’s judgment.
Since the beginning of the 2018-19 season, only Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold has created more chances from full back than the outgoing Digne.
The Frenchman’s departure came on the same day that Everton moved to bring in a player from Villa themselves, with Anwar El Ghazi arriving on a loan deal until the end of the season.
It’s expected that the Dutchman will be inserted straight in to the starting 11 against Norwich City on Saturday.
Whether El Ghazi will form part of Rafa’s first-choice 11 in the coming weeks remains to be seen, but a large portion of regular starters are still frequenting the Finch Farm treatment room.
Jarrad Branthwaite, Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all remain doubtful with thigh trouble, whilst Fabian Delph is likely to miss out with an unspecified illness.
Alex Iwobi is away with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations and so won’t feature, with Richarlison and Yerry Mina also major doubts to be involved with calf strains.
Dean Smith has injury concerns of his own to contend with as Billy Gilmour and Christoph Zimmermann are both ruled out – Lukas Rupp and Andrew Omobamidele are also considered major doubts for the game at Carrow Road.
One benefit for Norwich is that Todd Cantwell is available for selection again after overcoming a bout of illness, whilst Josh Sargent will return after missing recent matches due to personal issues.
Both sides are in desperate need of points, and although the situation is more dire for Norwich, it can’t be underestimated how much of a tonic victory will be for Everton – and particularly Benitez – after recent developments.
3 points for the Canaries will give them a glimmer of hope in their uphill battle to stay in the Premier League, but even with their wretched recent run, Everton should be too strong for them.
Norwich City v Everton is a 3pm kick off on Saturday 15th January.
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