Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Watford
Referee: Lee Mason
September manager of the month Nuno Espirito Santo is preparing his in-form team to host a Watford side whose form has slipped since their prolific start to the 2018/19 Premier League campaign.
Nuno celebrated his Manager of the Month by humbly sharing it with the club by stating ‘it represents the effort of everybody working here’ and he’s right. The players have been in top form, going undefeated in their last six, while winning four and taking draws against both Manchester clubs.
Wolves have also notched up two consecutive clean sheets further adding to their impressive defensive record. While Nuno’s side have impressed with their results and style of play, questions will now be asked whether their recent success is form or quality. They host a Watford side who had a similar run of form from the start of the Premier League but have faded of late, so the pressure is on the home side remain victorious at home.
Watford have simmered down from their fiery start to the season and are now winless in their last four Premier League games. This dip in form has seen Saturday’s opponents leapfrog them in the table.
The international break came at a good time for Watford as they were embarrassed at home to Bournemouth, losing 4-0 with only ten men after Christian Kabasele carelessly picked up to yellow cards in 32 minutes. The two weeks off and some players representing their country will have hopefully freshened up the squad and produce a competitive game on Saturday.
Only two points separate the two in the table but both teams are at the opposite end of the form table. The international break may have stifled Wolves’ momentum whereas Watford could have seen it as a blessing. Both teams had several first-team players feature for their countries and time away from their respective squads could have pushed the reset button on their Premier League campaign. Wolves have yet to lose at Molineux in the Premier League and Watford will be looking to reignite their own winning ways.
Nuno’s men have managed to keep relatively fit throughout the season with all their previous injuries now fully fit. Despite their adoption of a high-intensity style of play throughout periods of their matches, they have managed to keep the entire squad healthy. This makes it two consecutive games in which Nuno has had every man in his squad available for selection.
Even though Cristiano Ronaldo’s exile from Portugal’s match against Scotland grabbed the headlines, Helder Costa’s debut for his country saw him grab his first international goal when opening the scoring. Ruben Neves didn’t feature but had been called up for international duty. With Wolves’ Portuguese representatives playing fluidly together, it wouldn’t be a surprise if more of the Portuguese contingent from the West Midlands were called up in the future.
Matt Doherty has been exceptional for Wolves so far this season and has been formidable in attack while being solid in his defensive duties. However, his showing for Northern Ireland wasn’t well received by the Northern Irish fans as they watched their team get beaten by Wales.
His lack of involvement in the game was the main criticism which is something he has not seen for Wolves. The difference in tactics are likely to influence the performance of the fullback who has proved he is capable of both attack and defence, whereas he may fall under a stricter regime under the more defensively minded Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane.
It’s unlikely, no matter how good or bad a performance may have been from a Wolves player for their country, that Nuno will change his starting eleven who have helped the club heavily impress since their promotion to the Premier League.
Watford’s fortunes for squad selection are in complete contrast compared to Wolves which are mainly through injury and self-inflicted through lack of discipline. Jose Holebas and Christian Kabasele are the culprits for lacking discipline, with Holebas being banned on disciplinary points for picking up five yellow cards already this season and Kabasele seeing yellow twice against Bournemouth in their last outing. This adds problems to their defensive issues already.
Defensive duo Daryl Janmaat and Kaboul are doubts with a Meniscus injury and a broken foot respectively, however Kaboul is expected to make a return on a day-to-day basis whereas Janmaat is expected to be unavailable to mid-November.
Tom Cleverley and Nathaniel Chalobah have been missed as options in midfield and both are still unknowns to when they should return meaning it will be likely they will feature in Saturday’s away game. The same can be said about Gerard Deulofeu’s ankle injury which may have contributed to Watford’s difficulties in front of goal in previous fixtures.
The next player to score for Watford will have their 200th Premier League goal, which will add incentive for Andre Gray and already proclaimed Watford hero, Troy Deeney, will be looking to add to his Watford accolades and get them back on track. While Javi Garcia’s attacking style has paid off mostly this season with their forwards bringing in the goals, it’s their defensive game which is letting the side down currently. However, their lack of defensive options may make them even more vulnerable this weekend.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Wolverhampton Wanderers – (5-3-2): Rui Patricio; Doherty, Boly, Coady, Bennett, Castro; Neves, Moutinho; Jota, Raul, Costa
Watford – (4-4-2): Foster; Femenia, Cathcart, Navarro, Mariappa; Hughes, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra, Gray, Deeney
Prediction: Wolves 3 Watford 1
Wolves are going to be strong favourites with their form and the fact they’re undefeated at Molineux makes it more difficult to see an out of form Watford leaving with any points. Watford’s reshuffle in defence could be an unpredictable advantage or most likely, the lack of game time together could prove detrimental to their chances. The international break could create a fresh slate for both clubs bringing high energy to the game.
The expected quality of Wolves will outshine the faded Watford performances and their defensive selection issues will only favour the West Midlands side.