Watford vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Venue: Vicarage Road
TV: Sky Sports Premier League, BT Sport 1
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Javi Gracia and his Watford side will be hosting Chris Hughton’s Brighton on Saturday; with the Seagulls having only managed to win two away games in the entirety of the 2017/18 Premier League season.
For the past several years, Watford’s managerial position has been one of little security with Gracia being Watford’s tenth manager since June 2012. However, the Spaniard is optimistic about the season ahead, and a full pre-season for the Hornets boss coupled with the signings of tricky winger Gerard Deulofeu and Premier League stalwart Ben Foster could prove to be key.
“I think we are going to be a good team with identity, soul and energy to compete in the Premier League.,” said Gracia, 48.
Chris Hughton’s Brighton, however, will be no pushover as the Seagulls have done an excellent job of bolstering their squad during the summer transfer window, bringing in the Dutch Eredivisie’s top scorer, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, along with RB Leipzig’s versatile fullback Bernardo Fernandes and Lille’s crafty midfielder Yves Bissouma. Indeed, Hughton and his men are looking to build upon the 15th place finish from last season.
Despite their ambitions, Watford and Brighton both struggled to produce goals last season, and it appears as though they might not have rid themselves of the problem just yet. Having recently sold Richarlison, arguably their best attacking player, Watford’s goalscoring hopes depend on the unconvincing trio of Troy Deeney, Andre Gray, and Stefano Okaka all of whom failed to find form last season.
Brighton’s strikers did not fare too well either, and Brighton’s Jϋrgen Locadia, who was brought in from PSV to solve the goalscoring problem, only managed one league goal last season.
Watford cannot continue relying on the likes of midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré to score goals for them, and Brighton must lower their dependency on the ageing Glenn Murray to put balls in the back of the net.
Although Gracia has hinted at the return of the injured Deulofeu and the talented Nathaniel Chalobah, it is unclear whether they will be available for Saturday’s match. Brighton’s attacking pair of Andone and Locadia are injured, and it seems as though Jahanbaksh may be eased in to the Premier League much like Jϋrgen Locadia was which means the task of goalscoring will likely fall on Pascal Groß and Glenn Murray.
Both managers have been fairly coy when discussing tactics and player fitness, and it seems as though both Hughton and Gracia may be planning surprises for one another. Needless to say, both teams will be looking to prove a point, and although both Watford and Brighton have a reputation of being defensive teams at times, the Hornets and Seagulls are evenly matched in many aspects which should make for an entertaining bout.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Watford: 4-4-2: Foster; Janmaat, Kabasele, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes. Capoue, Doucouré, Pereyra; Gray, Deeney.
Brighton: 4-4-1-1: Mat Ryan; Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Pröpper, Izquierdo; Groß, Murray
Prediction: Watford 1 Brighton 1.
Hughton and Gracia know their teams are relegation candidates, and they know how important it will be for them to win this match; that said, both sides will likely play a fairly open game.
There should be plenty of chances with creators like Groß and Deulofeu on the pitch, yet there are doubts concerning the fitness and form of both teams’ strikers. Watford are unbeaten in their last 11 opening games of a season, and they are certainly capable of securing a point against a competitive Brighton side at Vicarage Road.