Watford vs Fulham
Venue: Vicarage Road
Referee: Roger East
Fulham travel to Watford this Tuesday evening knowing that defeat could see them relegated from the Premier League. A game that should feel like a high-stakes match actually feels like a chance to give much-needed relief to the fans of Fulham football club.
It has been a long time coming for Fulham this season and if they are to be relegated this Tuesday, it would be fitting that their executioners would be Watford – a successful mid-table club that have run their season expertly and with minimal fuss.
Watford have surprised many this season but their squad is healthy and their manager astute – their good league showing should not be a surprise. They have loaded their squad with an excellent mix of skill and strength, with creativity nicely balanced by more heavy midfield and defensive enforcers. They just scored one of their own personal goals of the season against Manchester United at Old Trafford, with their late consolation goal being an extremely impressive mix of one-touch passing and composed finishing.
That kind of goal shows what Watford are capable of, and what Fulham have to fear when visiting their ground. Threats are everywhere across Watford’s line-up, whether you consider the trickery and pace of players like Deulofeu or Pereyra on the wings, or the more traditional, brute threat of seasoned striker Troy Deeney up front. They have the potential to mix-up their game plans and their personnel to an extent which most mid-table clubs strive for. This ability allows them to be able to beat smaller teams around them with force while causing the bigger teams problems with their speed. They’ve reached a level now where it is actually surprising if they don’t give a big team a game, and nobody was shocked to see Manchester United receive a seriously tough game last time around.
Fulham have gone past the stage now of giving anybody a good game. Their defeat against Manchester City in their last game was one of their meekest of the season; anybody who has been watching Fulham this season would agree that is quite an impressive feat. It is not that the overall quality of their play is hindering them massively (although it is a huge problem) but rather that their frequency for individual mistakes, of which multiple are happening every single game.
City were handed both of their goals from individual errors with Fulham giving the ball away – the first goal in particular an astonishing mess of different mistakes that eventually resulted in Bernardo Silva firing home.
The team are playing without conviction, belief or, perhaps more shockingly, effort, at the moment, and Fulham fans are absolutely noticing. Many of those big summer signings may not be welcomed back with open arms for the Championship campaign by the fans, with many of them signaling a lack of willingness to fight for the team, either through their performances or their overall attitudes. A rebuilding job is absolutely required but that kind of construction has to make things worse before things get better; Fulham’s summer will be interesting to say the least.
Adalberto Penaranda and Isaac Success will be unavailable for this game after picking up knocks, while tenacious midfielder Tom Cleverly is still nursing a calf problem. The more interesting conundrum for Watford is how seriously they take this game, as the club prepares for a momentous day out on Wembley on Sunday against Wolves in the FA Cup semi-final. Javi Garcia believes Fulham could be the perfect preparation for that event, but the temptation to rest some important players must be on his mind.
It is looking unlikely that Fulham’s talismanic striker, Aleksander Mitrovic, will be fit for this crunch fixture. The Serbian was absent against Manchester City and Scott Parker revealed it was looking touch-and-go as to whether he would be fit for this game as well.
This would normally be a blow for a side such as Fulham’s but Mitrovic has been struggling for a while now, with Fulham’s criminal lack of service not doing the striker any favours. Surprisingly successful January signing Ryan Babel played up front against Manchester City and should do again this Tuesday.
Predicted Starting XIs
Watford (4-3-2-1): Foster; Masina, Britos, Kabasele, Janmaat; Capoue, Doucore, Hughes; Deulofeu, Pereyra; Deeney
Fulham (3-5-1-1): Rico; Odoi, Ream, Nordveidt; Bryan, Seri, McDonald, Anguissa, Christie; Cairney; Babel
Score Prediction: Watford 3 Fulham 0
It is looking inevitable that Fulham will be relegated this Tuesday – the question is, how much by. It is difficult to have faith in a team as poor as Fulham’s, as devoid of belief and effort as this, and Watford should have no problems dispatching of them. The only threat Watford may have is their own complacency or major changes in anticipation of their semi-final on Sunday. Yet they are a professional outfit and, if they play as they have most of the season, Fulham will be confirmed to be a Championship club this Tuesday night.