Burnley vs Watford
Venue: Turf Moor
Referee: Paul Tierney
Upstart Watford, after a convincing 2-0 win to open the Premier League, travel north to Turf Moor, looking for their first win in 12 away fixtures as they take on Sean Dyche and the Clarets defence.
Watford look like a team reborn after the start of the 2018/19 campaign, as Javi Gracia’s men dispatched Brighton & Hove Albion, 2-0 last week at Vicarage Road. The Hornets controlled the ball, dictated the tempo and dominated the Seagulls, who didn’t have a single shot on goal. Two goals by Roberto Pereyra, with two assists from Jose Holebas, were all the Hornets needed as they cruised to victory.
Gracia was still without Gerard Deulofeu on the right flank, which saw Will Hughes play out of position. The midfield was strong with Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure patrolling the midfield, while Ben Foster wasn’t forced to make a save on the day. The defence was untested by the Seagulls but did play as a cohesive unit.
Sean Dyche took his Clarets to St. Mary’s to face Southampton with former Manchester United goalkeeper Joe Hart in goal, purchased earlier in the week as Nick Pope and Tom Heaton were still sidelined due to injury. Some questions were raised as to the resilience of the Burley’s defence, but the back four did keep a clean sheet, allowing just seven shots on the day. Offensively, Burnley showed potential in front of goal, as Chris Wood had three shots, one deemed offside, while Johann Gudmundsson clipped the cross bar on a set piece.
Last season, Burnley won both fixtures, 1-0 at Turf Moor and 2-1 with two late goals on their travels to Vicarage Road. Based on just the first week of play, this should be a very competitive fixture, as both teams have perennially finished mid-table. Burnley have Europa League commitments, Thursday in Istanbul against İstanbul Başakşehir F.K. Fatigue could be an issue, as the Clarets secured European football for the first time in 51 years.
Burnley Team News
Sean Dyche has a potential problem, as he now has three starting goalkeepers, with the addition of Joe Hart being purchased last week, after Nick Pope dislocated his shoulder. Heaton and Pope are still out, which leaves Hart the only healthy option, as he faces a Europa League fixture in Istanbul, and then the Sunday game, home to Watford.
There could be some concern up front, as Burnley forwards combined for just five attempts on goal, with Chris Wood registering two shots both on target. However, it was Gudmundsson, who appeared the player in form with some excellent set pieces and dead balls, providing 10 crosses from the left flank. Jack Cork created three chances, as Aaron Lennon was lively down the right flank.
Burnley pride their play around their defence, which was the fifth best in the Premier League last season, conceding just 39 goals during the campaign. Last week the defence was led by James Tarkowski, 15 blocks and 4 clearances and Ben Mee, both collecting bonus points against the Saints. Against Watford, Burnley must find a way to slow down Roberto Pereyra who netted twice last weekend. The Hornets were lively on the attack with Troy Deeney and Andre Gray up front. The key for Burnley will certainly be slowing down Watford’s confident attacking trio.
Watford Team News
Javi Gracia will be without Gerard Deulofeu for another week, which means Will Hughes or Kiko Femenia will play out of position on the right wing. Hughes was unimpressive as a wide player and for him to be effective he needs to be moved into a central role. For Hughes to be successful centrally, a change in formation may be requited to the successful 4-4-2 that saw Watford attack Brighton relentlessly last weekend. This means Deeney or Gray would be benched in favour of Hughes, who would slot in centrally to a 4-2-3-1.
The defence was untested for 90 minutes as Brighton did not force Ben Foster to make any saves. Jose Holebas and Daryl Janmaat were both highly active down the flanks, with Holebas recording two assists on the day off 11 crosses, taking all dead ball and set pieces for the Hornets. Janmaat was a surprise start ahead of Kiko Femenia on the left, but based on how the defensive unit played, Gracia could face Burnley with the same starting XI.
While Watford’s home display sparkled against Brighton, they struggled on the road last season, ending with 11 loses in 12 games, scoring just two goals in that stretch. Couple that with the fact Burnley are usually very reliable defensively at home but could be suspect, as they recorded just five clean sheets last season. Since Joe Hart has taken over in goal, Burnley have recorded two clean sheets in as many games. History tells us there should be a few goals in this match, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it end 0-0.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Burnley (4-4-1-1): Hart; Ward, Mee, Tarkowski, Lowton; Gudmudsson, Cork, Hendrick, Westwood, Lennon; Wood
Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Holebas, Kabasele, Cathcart, Janmaat; Pereyra, Capoue, Doucoure, Femenia; Deeney, Gray
Prediction: Burnley 0 Watford 0 – Last season Burnley picked up six points, defeating Watford home and away but the final score doesn’t represent well. In gameweek 16, Marvin Zeegelaar picked up a red card in the 39’, while Scott Arnfield converted in the 45’ minutes, as Watford played with 10-men the entire second half. Gameweek 33 saw late action, as Pereyra gave the Hornets a 1-0 lead, but Burnley responded twice in three minutes as Same Vokes and Jack Cork scored to give the Clarets a 2-1 victory. With Watford struggles on the road and a staunch Burnley defence, I see this game finishing a draw.