Roberto Martinez believes his Everton side can “reach perfection” as they seek to extend a seven-match unbeaten run at Norwich City on Saturday.
Everton have proved one of the most consistent teams in the Premier League over the past two months, losing just twice in their last 16 matches in all competitions.
Part of their run is down to the performances of in-form striker Romelu Lukaku, who took his Premier League tally for the season to 11 goals in 15 appearances with his equaliser in Monday’s 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace.
Manager Martinez proclaimed on Thursday that only Manchester City star Sergio Aguero has had the same goalscoring impact as Lukaku over the past three seasons, and the Spaniard also praised the overall quality in his squad.
However, the former Swansea City boss recognised Everton’s standards must be maintained in a highly competitive Premier League season.
“We have been very consistent and we want to reach perfection. I just feel that this team is ready to reach those heights,” Martinez said.
“We have had two defeats in 16, only one defeat in 11 away from home, so we are giving very consistent levels.
“I know it sounds like a bit of a cliche but this is the most competitive league that I have seen or that I have been involved in. On the day, unless you are perfect, you are not given an easy ride against anyone.”
In contrast to Everton’s form, Alex Neil’s Norwich are only outside the relegation zone on goal difference following a 2-0 reverse at Watford last weekend and they have now won just once in 10 league matches.
Most worrying for Norwich was the lack of goal threat they posed at Vicarage Road, with Neil bemoaning his side’s inability to find a way back into the game after falling behind.
Norwich can take heart from a reasonable record against Everton, though, with five of the last seven meetings between the sides ending all square and each team earning a win apiece. However, Everton’s current unbeaten streak began with a penalty shootout victory over Norwich in the League Cup in late October.
The contest has particular significance for on-loan Liverpool full-back Andre Wisdom, who is relishing the chance to face Everton.
“It’ll have a little bit of added significance because I’m a Liverpool fan – so obviously I don’t like Everton,” he told The Eastern Daily Press.
“It’s always good to play and if I get that opportunity again to play on Saturday, I’ll take it with both hands. But I’ll approach it in the same way I do every game.”
Everton will hand a late fitness test to James McCarthy (hip) who has missed the last two matches, while Norwich have no new reported injuries.
Key Opta Stats:
– Everton have won only one of their seven Premier League visits to Carrow Road (W1 D4 L2).
– Norwich have won just one of the last 10 Barclays Premier League meetings with Everton (W1 D5 L4).
– Norwich have won just two of their last 10 home Premier League matches (W2 D2 L6).
– Everton have lost just one of their last eight Premier League away games (W3 D4 L1).
– Romelu Lukaku has now scored 50 goals in 100 competitive appearances for Everton, with these goals coming against 20 different opponents.
– Lukaku has scored nine goals in his last nine Premier League appearances for Everton.