Seeking more success vs. UCL-chasing Everton

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesFantasy managers beware when selecting the likes of Sebastien Bassong.

Norwich's Premier League home draw against Everton last season effectively clinched safety. Find a way to win when the Toffees come to town again on Saturday and Norwich can take a giant stride to repeating that stellar feat.

- Bassong confident of Canaries' survival

You resist the temptation to label a hard-nosed campaigner such as David Moyes and his squad of streetwise professionals as a 'lucky charm', but Everton have made generous concessions to the Canaries since they returned to the elite in 2011.

John Ruddy's defiance at his former club, allied to a catalogue of spurned chances, allowed City to escape with a point at Goodison Park on their first visit last season. Norwich subsequently managed to subdue an inspired Nikica Jelavic to come from behind twice at Carrow Road in the reverse fixture on Easter Saturday. The point nudged Paul Lambert's men to that 40-point demarcation line which traditionally signals survival and another season of riches.

Then in this campaign, Norwich were decidedly second-best for long spells on Merseyside but Everton paid a heavy price for their failure to convert territorial dominance into a decisive advantage when Norwich's immense centre-back Sebastien Bassong rose majestically deep into stoppage time to despatch Javier Garrido's free kick past Tim Howard in November. Three league draws in three tussles with the Toffees. A fourth this weekend would maintain Norwich's steady progress since a dispiriting festive spell.

But break that cycle of relative stalemate, find a way to edge past Moyes' side, and Norwich players and fans will feel suitably emboldened, due in part to a margin for error to those in greatest peril that recedes with each winless week.

Everton need the league points just as badly for loftier European ambitions, but a crucial FA Cup fifth-round replay on the horizon must inevitably be factored into Moyes' planning for a trip to Norfolk. With Liverpool's League One slayers Oldham at Goodison Park next week and the reward of a home quarter-final tie against Wigan for the winners, Everton have a fantastic chance to threaten Manchester's current dominance in the north-west.

Manager Chris Hughton and his players will never admit it publicly but this could be the perfect time to play Everton. City's squad have had a two-week break to prepare - which included a mini warm-weather training camp in Abu Dhabi. The Toffees had to settle for an FA Cup slugfest on a heavy Boundary Park pitch and the colder climes of the UK.

All sound logic - except Everton under Moyes appear to thrive on upsetting the odds and overcoming the financial disparities self-evident between the 'People's Club' and their more ostentatious Champions League-chasing rivals.

Norwich will still have to play very well on home soil to secure a first Premier League in 10 games since that club-record pre-Christmas unbeaten run. Reality has set in since. The finish line is in sight and the Canaries need to pick up the pace again.

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