Everton vs Watford
Venue: Goodison Park
Referee: Lee Mason
Javi Gracia and Watford travel up the M1 to Goodison Park to face former boss, Marco Silva, whose Toffees struggled against Crystal Palace last week, having scored just three goals in their last eight games played.
It’s been a run of three games that Everton have failed to register a win against Watford, and the last time they hosted the Hornets at Goodison, a draw was rescued with a very late free kick from Lucas Digne to finish the game 2-2. Goalscoring is what the Toffees have tried to improve during the transfer period, having struggled finding the back of the net in the last few competitive matches. Last week they opened the season with just three shots on target against a stingy Crystal Palace defence.
Watford didn’t fair much better, dropping their home opener to Brighton & Hove Albion, who they’ve opened with the last two years, by three goals to nil. For Watford, their performance was second best for 90 minutes, as Graham Potter brought a new look Seagulls to the Premier League in gameweek one. Described as “dispirited and disjointed,” Watford look to rebound against their former manager, with history on their side.
It’s an important, early season fixture as both teams have big expectations after the transfer window, adding players and filling holes. Watford finished their best ever season in May, on 50 points, good for 11th in the league table, but struggled losing the final three games of the season before being embarrassed in the FA Cup Final 6-0 by Manchester City. It appears the Golden Boys have started the season where they ended.
By contrast, the Toffees had their best run of the season to close out the 2018/19 Premier League campaign with points in nine of their final eleven games, but more importantly posting eight clean sheets, including ones against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. Their defence started this season posting their first clean sheet and look to make it back to back games as the Hornets try to get on the scoreboard.
Everton continue to keep a close eye on the progress of Moise Kean and Djibril Sidibé, both of whom will push for starting spots at some point. Everton have struggled with consistently scoring since losing Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United in 2017. It was thought Cenk Tosun was the answer, coming in last season, but he was outplayed by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, whose work rate and abilities helped the Toffees to an 8th place finish.
Former Everton player, Louis Saha, who spent four years at Everton said, “Kean is a great signing for Everton but he is going to need time to adapt to the Premier League – I can’t see him hitting the ground running.”
Defensively, Everton have improved since last season. Kurt Zouma has returned to Chelsea, while Yerry Mina, now fit is starting with Michael Keane. Jordon Pickford on the back of 14 clean sheets last season continues to mind the net, but it’s Seamus Coleman who will be looking over his shoulder at Sidibé.
Everton will be without the services of Morgan Schneiderlin, who was suspended for two yellows at Palace last week. Fabian Delph has been ruled out with a groin injury, while Andre Gomes came off just before half time with an ankle injury.
The Hornets’ FA Cup Final hangover continued in their last match, as they looked a shade of their former self from last season. Defensively, errors were made at the back by Jose Holebas and between Craig Cathcart and Craig Dawson leading to frustration, as the Hornets conceded three goals to a team expected to be battling relegation. After the game, Ireland international, Cathcart said, “We’ve got no excuses and we need to do better.”
Javi Gracia decided to shake up the starting XI with Andre Gray partnering up front with captain, Troy Deeney. While Roberto Pereyra was short on fitness, having returned from Copa América late, Gerard Deulofeu got a start on the left flank. Not his regular position, Deulofeu in the same vein as Pereyra was cutting inside quite often in the attacking third. Gray didn’t impress up front, as the Hornets’ attack was anything but stinging.
None of Watford’s starters are in jeopardy of not playing, as the injury list is short, led by new boy Danny Welbeck, who joined on a free transfer, but is not yet fit. Adalberto Penaranda is still nursing a thigh injury and “is training but not with the team.” Midfielder, Nathaniel Chalobah could be assessed ahead of this weekend’s fixture. Tom Dele-Bashiru is still being put through strength and conditioning and is ruled out against Everton.
Predicted Starting XIs
Everton (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne; Davies, Gbamin; Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard; Kean
Watford (4-2-2-2): Foster; Femenia, Dawson, Cathcart, Holebas; Capoue, Doucoure; Hughes, Pereyra; Deeney, Deulofeu
Match Prediction: Everton 2 – 2 Watford
Offensively, neither team were sharp in their first game, but something will surely give at Goodison. The game will hinge on Watford showing resolve at the back, but Everton have the attacking prowess. History to repeat itself in the Toffee’s home opener.