Watford vs Everton
Venue: Vicarage Road
Referee: Lee Probert
Marco Silva returns to Vicarage Road for the first time since being sacked in January of last year, as Watford and Everton battle for mid-table dominance.
In December, Watford saw three points slip away in the sixth minute of injury time, as Lucas Digne’s free-kick earned Everton a late 2-2 draw at Goodison Park. “We are not happy with the result. When you start like we start and achieve just one point, of course we are unhappy. Our goal for the match is completely different from the result”, said Marco Silva in a post-game interview.
Off the pitch, an independent inquiry continues to probe the alleged illegal advance by the Toffees towards Silva. Watford have lost just one of their last six games, picking up seven points, grabbing 7th in the league table after a poor performance at home against Brighton & Hove Albion. The Toffees were beaten 2-0 by Manchester City in midweek, off the back of a 3-1 loss to Wolves at Goodison Park.
This is a critical game for both clubs, but Everton have won just twice since Boxing Day and sit on 33 points, looking up at Watford who have a one-point advantage. It’s a game tied together by Marco Silva, as he ran the Hornets into the ground and has been struggling at Everton since early December. He arrived at Goodison, after the firing at Watford, wanting to manage a bigger club. He got that with Everton, a team that hasn’t finished better than 7th in the last four years. His days in charge could be numbered if he doesn’t get results to give Everton a chance of European football next season.
As we look toward to the trip to Goodison Park, Watford will arrive without key players, starting with midfield maestro, Abdoulaye Doucoure. While his services have been highly sought after during the transfer window, he is still recovering from a knee injury that will keep him out of action. Defender Kiko Femenia looks to miss his third game with a hamstring issue and Seb Prodl will also miss out, recovering from a knee injury. Midfielder Roberto Pereyra is struggling with a calf strain and forward Issac Success is dealing with a hamstring problem.
Javi Gracia will be without some key players this weekend, as Doucoure’s injury continues to cause the Watford starting XI trouble. The last few games without the Frenchman has seen the Hornets struggle in midfield, as Tom Cleverley has featured alongside Etienne Capoue in the last three games. During that time, Watford have gone from being dominant on the ball to seeing just 44.9% of possession at the Amex Stadium last weekend. In attack, Watford had just one shot on target against Spurs, and none last weekend.
Defensively, the Hornets have posted two clean sheets in the last four games, which is mostly thanks to the excellent play of Ben Foster. His leadership and in-goal performances have been the difference for the defence this season. His positioning, agility and saves (17 in the last four games) have been pivotal for the Golden Boys, keeping them in nearly every game.
Injury concerns for Marco Silva’s team are all defensive, as he will be without Phil Jagielka, who is still a few weeks away from training with the squad. Yerry Mina picked up an ankle injury but has a slight chance of featuring at Vicarage Road. The Toffees could use his size and power to strengthen a struggling defence, whilst Leighton Baines has a rib injury and is thus ruled out.
If past history is any indication, the Toffees are favourites headed into the weekend as they have lost just four times in the last 27 fixtures to Watford. However, recent form – bowing out to Millwall in the FA Cup and three losses in the last four games – has Marco Silva under the gun. It won’t be easy for the Toffees, as Silva was booed at home by the Goodison crowd against Man City. “We must be consistent, it is an obligation for us. We must have a desire to win, an aggression; it is what we have to do every time against every team,” said Silva after the game.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison both started on the bench on Wednesday, as Silva seemingly conceded to City. For the Toffees to succeed this weekend and turn their struggles, Richarlison will have to shine, as he did early in the season. The Brazilian was on the scoreboard in gameweek 16, when these teams played to a 2-2 draw. Concerns over the Toffees defence are at the centre of controversy, as they’ve conceded 12 goals from set pieces.
Predicted Starting XIs
Everton (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Digne; Gomes, Gueye; Walcott, Sigurdsson, Richarlison; Tosun
Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes, Doucoure, Capoue, Sema; Deulofeu, Deeney.
Prediction: Watford 2 Everton 0
While history favours the Toffees, the Watford faithful could play into the emotions that will echo around the Vic this weekend. That could potentially provide motivation for the ex-Watford player, Richarlison, who has lacked form recently. Watford, while not lethal going forward, continue to keep things tight in defence, which could lead the Hornets past the visitors this weekend.