Watford vs AFC Bournemouth
K/O: 15.00 hours
Venue: Vicarage Road
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Watford return home to Vicarage Road after picking up one point from an available nine, as they face an upstart Bournemouth who are flying high with two wins in their last three.
Watford and Bournemouth both have 13 points on the board so far, sitting 6th and 7th in the Premier League table. Watford suffered a tough loss last time out, as Arsenal scored two quick goals late, seeing off the Hornets at the Emirates Stadium. Bournemouth did just enough against Crystal Palace to pick up a vital three points to propel them up the table, courtesy of goals from David Brooks and Junior Stanislas.
Saturday’s clash is the sort of matchup that both teams need to be winning in order to see off any talk of relegation later in the season. Both Bournemouth and Watford have exceeded expectations in the current campaign, as they enter Saturday with identical 4-1-2 records. Watford boss Javi Gracia continues to be positive, “I think we are competing really well in all the games and all the players are frustrated because before the game they think we will be able to get a good result, playing well here.” said the Spaniard, 48.
Eddie Howe has used the Cherries two losses this season to help motivate his squad. “It’s an inevitable part of the job and you have to accept it but what you have to do, I think personally, is use it as a driving force.” said Howe. The 4-0 loss to struggling Burnley seems to have spurred the Cherries on. “It doesn’t matter where you go, what competition you are playing in, as a group we take it hard because of the expectations we place on ourselves.” Howe has big expectations this week, as three points could potentially push them into a top-four spot.
Watford received word that Daryl Janmaat has been lost to a knee injury, as the duration of his time on the sidelines is unknown. “I am always sad when I have injured players. In this case, we lose Janmaat for I don’t how long. He’s an important player for us but I prefer not to complain about the players I don’t have,” said Gracia when he learned of the news.
Gracia could welcome back Gerard Deulofeu, who has yet to play, as he continues his training to regain fitness. It was suggested that Deulofeu could feature against Bournemouth this weekend, which is great news, as he would occupy the right flank and give the Hornets another offensive asset.
Last week we saw Gracia make his first change to the starting XI with the Janmaat news, as Marc Navarro received his first Premier League start. Many pundits felt Kiko Femenia was nailed on for the start, but Navarro put in a strong showing against Arsenal. When asked about Femenia, Gracia responded, “I see him as a very good player. He can see different positions. He has played this season as a winger and in the last home game against United he played some minutes as a right-back. He can play in both positions for me.”
The Hornets continue to create good chances, as they mustered 14 shots last week, though they were unable to capitalise on any of them. Issac Success looked highly impressive going forward. He’s got size, strength and power and nearly put Watford ahead last week with a dink over Bernd Leno that just went wide. While he has no place in the starting XI, Troy Deeney and Andre Gray continue to put in the effort when on the pitch when paired together.
The Cherries have struggled away from home this season, losing two games and conceding six goals. Last season at Vicarage Road, Howe’s side played Watford with a 2-2 draw the result; a late Jermain Defoe penalty kick meaning the spoils were shared. This season Eddie Howe has the Cherries flying high on confidence, and they will be looking to continue their momentum into Saturday’s clash against Watford.
Eddie Howe said of Brooks, “He has outstanding technical qualities and I believe he is a goalscorer in waiting. He gets in good positions, his finishing is improving and that was a big moment for him.” Ryan Fraser has been instrumental to the Cherries success this season. The 24-year-old Scotland international has good skills and pace down the flanks. As a right-footed player on the left side, he’s got options to beat a defender either inside or outside. To date, he’s scored three goals and registered two assists and will be a key player this weekend.
The only injury Howe has to contend with is Charlie Daniels, still struggling with a knee injury, as he’s been unavailable for the last four weeks. Diego Rico had a chance to impress a few weeks back, but Simon Francis appears to be nailed on at the left back position, playing all 90 minutes against Palace on Monday.
Junior Stanislas will be looking to break back into the starting XI for Howe. He made a six-minute cameo, returning from a knee injury sustained in March at Watford, picking up his first goal on the season. He’s featured in parts of two games, replacing Josh King on Monday and Callum Wilson two weeks ago.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Watford: Foster; Holebas, Kabasele, Cathcart, Femenia; Pereyra, Capoue, Doucoure; Deeney, Gray
AFC Bournemouth: Begovic; Smith, Ake, Cook, Francis; Fraser, L. Cook, Lerma, Brooks; Wilson, King
Prediction: Watford 2 Bournemouth 1
The defence will be the key to deciding this fixture, as both teams have been in good form, but haven’t achieved desired results. While the game will have goals, I predict Foster and company will have enough to stop the Cherries attack.