Watford vs Newcastle United
Venue: Vicarage Road
Referee: David Coote
If there is any club in the Premier League struggling, it’s Watford. After the initial bump of introducing Javi Gracia as the new manager, Watford have secured just two points over the last seven fixtures.
Problems on the pitch are glaring, lack of concentration on defense and the inability to score goals. Last week’s 2-0 loss to Spurs saw the Hornets slip to 13th in the league table, six points clear of the relegation zone.
Newcastle moved into 10th place, but come off two difficult, 1-0 loss to the resurgent, West Brom and Everton. Prior to that, the Toons has won four in a row. Rafa Benitez has some work to do this weekend, away from St. James it’s been just one win in their last six matches. There is some concern, as Newcastle hasn’t score in the last, but their luck should turn this weekend as they visit the Vic.
While Watford hasn’t been terrible, holding many mid-table teams close in recent games, their hard work has been undone by a moment lack in concentration and a single goal to do them in against Burnley and Huddersfield. The late goal saw the Hornets lose out on potentially four points, before securing a hard-fought draw against Palace. “After our defeats the players were frustrated and they know the situation and want to start getting good results,” said Gracia recently.
The Hornets get some good news, as Gerard Deulofeu could return to the starting XI this week, unfortunately a thigh injury will see Stefano Okaka miss the Newcastle fixture. He’s been a catalyst of sort, partnering with Troy Deeney up front to give the Hornets more attacking potential. Andre Gray got the start last week, linked up with the midfield well, but couldn’t beat Hugo Lloris.
The key to the game will be Will Hughes, who will set the tone as the Hornets look to turn transition into attack. He’s the playmaker who will carry the ball forward before looking to the likes of Richarlison and Deulofeu to provide opportunities up front. However, Watford last had a forward score in gameweek 29, as the dry spell up front continues. The return of Richarlison could be a nice differential, partner with Deulofeu, will give the Hornets more pace in transition. Both also bring attacking potential in the final third.
Benitez has said, “A team like us, we have to be organized, we have to play with intensity and everything has to be done with the same pace and the same passion we had in the past.” With two games remaining, the Toons don’t have much to play for, as they are currently in 10th with 41 points. That won’t change the approach ahead of the trip to Watford, as Benitez looks to make changes. Mikel Merino, back in training this week could see action, as he returns to fitness after a back injury.
Newcastle have never won at Watford, in the Premier League, in seven attempts, as they look to change their fortunes this weekend. Like Watford, their on-pitch performance was lacking the last two games. Ayoze Perez had been the man in form with three goals in his last five and Newcastle will turn to him up front to convert. The return of Merino could provide a change of pace in the midfield that already has Matt Ritchie, Jonjoe Shelvey and the dynamic, Kenedy.
Predicted Starting XI’s
Watford (4-2-3-1) Karnezis, Holebas, Kabasele, Cathcart, Femenia, Doucoure, Capoue, Richarlison, Hughes, Deulofeu, Gray
Newcastle (4-4-1-1) Dubravka, Dummett, Lejeune, Lascelles, Yedlin, Kenedy, Shelvey, Merino, Ritchie, Perez, Gayle
Predicted Score Watford 0 Newcastle 0
Two teams in similar positions with little to play for in the overall scheme of things. While Watford isn’t mathematically safe on 38 points they are in dire need of a win. Newcastle looking to improve their overall standing now on 41 points. With recent form lacking, both teams haven’t appeared to be in their best form. Changes to the starting XI on both sides could provide the needed punch to find the back of the net. However, I see this playing out rather dull and uninspired.