Norwich City vs. Everton: Complete Preview, Team News and Prediction

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IAugust 15, 2013

NORWICH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23:  Leon Osman of Everton battles with Robert Snodgrass of Norwich City during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Everton at Carrow Road on February 23, 2013 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Everton travel to Norwich for their opening clash of the 2013/14 season, playing only their second away fixture at this opening juncture over the past 10 years.

Roberto Martinez will be looking to launch his Toffees career in style but faces a durable opponent in Chris Houghton's Canaries.

The home side have invested well over the summer and will be looking to start their own campaign with a flourish in front of a passionate Carrow Road crowd.


Form and Previous Meetings

In terms of preseason form, Everton battled several distinguished adversaries during an encouraging summer.

Overall, there were four wins and three defeats, with victory against Juventus arguably the highlight. There were promising early signs under Martinez, but Norwich will be encouraged by the Toffees' lack of clean sheets.

Houghton's side managed two wins, a trio of draws and two defeats in their preseason, with the most notable scalp coming against Panathinaikos.

Everton are yet to beat Norwich upon their most recent Premier League return, with three draws and a defeat. Martinez fared only marginally better at Wigan, winning just one of his four encounters.


Team News and Key Players

Darron Gibson is Everton's primary concern. The Irishman injured a knee against Real Betis and is a doubt to start in midfield.

Other than that, Martinez goes in with the rest of his key players raring to go, although Antolin Alcaraz and Tony Hibbert may well miss the trip, having been absent through most of preseason.

Norwich have Leroy Fer suspended and have question marks surrounding the fitness of Gary Hooper, although the recently injured Sebastien Bassong should be back in contention.

Kevin Mirallas has been in excellent form during the summer, tormenting full-backs for fun. Alongside the similarly in-form Seamus Coleman, he will be a hard man to suppress and will be key for the visitors.

Norwich were let down by a poor return from their strikers last season. Only two teams scored fewer goals, meaning all eyes will be on their new No. 9, Ricky van Wolfswinkel.


Potential Starting XIs

Predicting a starting XI at this stage can often backfire, with so little material to study.

Everton's XI is based on the idea that Gibson misses out and that Martinez reserves his three-at-the-back approach for a later date.

The back five pick themselves. Leon Osman drops deeper to accompany Marouane Fellaini, allowing Ross Barkley to start behind the striker with freedom to express himself in the attacking third.

Mirallas and Steven Pienaar will play a little closer to the striker, with that selection the most uncertain pick. Nikica Jelavic's run of preseason goals makes him a narrow favourite, as does his previous success at Carrow Road.

If fit, Bassong will lead Norwich from the back, presumably alongside Russell Martin or Michael Turner, with Steven Whittaker and Javier Garrido the likely full-backs. Alexander Tettey and Bradley Johnson will anchor midfield, while Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington are candidates to provide the width.

In the probable absence of Hooper, Wes Hoolahan could feasibly start behind Van Wolfswinkel in attack.


Final Prediction: 1-1