Watford vs Newcastle United
Venue: Vicarage Road
Referee: Roger East
A Newcastle side desperate for goals visit Vicarage Road on Saturday facing a Watford side who tested Chelsea last time out. The visitors have the upper hand though having already taken three points from the Hornets this season thanks to Ayoze Perez’s goal in the reverse fixture.
Watford came out of their winter slump three weeks ago, posting back to back wins against Cardiff City and West Ham before a tough loss against a good Chelsea side on Boxing Day. The Hornets currently sit mid-table alongside Everton and West Ham on 27 points and will be hoping to hit the 30 point mark before the New Year. As for the Magpies, their win against Watford in early November set them on their best run of the season winning the next two and making a small rise up the table. They currently sit on 17 points, five clear of the relegation zone in 15th.
Watford continue to play good football under Gracia and the manager stated during the week that “I think we are in a good moment. I have good feelings. We can win, we can lose but when I see my players they always give their best and are competing in all the games we’ve played and with different options against all the teams we’ve played so far”. For Newcastle, Rafa Benitez has made his goal clear: “The target is to stay up and after that see where we can go like last year. We are in the bottom half of the table. We can get the points to go higher but the main thing is to stay up.”
Watford: The Hornets will be without the services of Christian Kabasele, who picked up an early injury during the Chelsea match. The defender picked up what looked to be a nasty injury as he slid into the goal post to stop an attempt from Chelsea’s Willian, leaving the game on a stretcher. Adrian Mariappa filled in and is expected to get the call on Saturday to partner with Craig Cathcart. Andre Gray continues to be unavailable due to a leg injury, which means Issac Success could see more playing time, partnering with Gerard Deulofeu up front.
At the conclusion of the Chelsea game Gracia said: “At the end of the game they felt tired but a day, two days to recover I am sure they will be ready. But I have to make decisions about that and knowing we are going to play three games in the coming days, to manage the players maybe in the next games I have to change something to compete at our best level.”
Youngster, Domingos Quina continues to shine and came off the bench for 23 minutes against the Blues. Either Quina of Ken Sema will get the start on the right flank; the latter put in a good shift against the Blues but Quina has been more excitable in the limited minutes he’s played this season.
Newcastle: The Magpies will be without the services of Ki Sung-Yeung, one of the heroes in the reverse fixtures, as it was his free kick that found the head of Ayoze Perez for the only goal of the game. Defender Florian Lejune isn’t available but he is nearing a return. Also missing out this week is Ciaran Clark who sustained an ankle injury last time out. Good news for Benitez could be the return of Jonjo Shelvey to the starting XI as he looks match fit for the trip to Watford.
Newcastle are coming off a 4-0 loss to league leaders Liverpool and face a pivotal fixture at Vicarage Road. Benitez voiced his displeasure after the loss at Anfield saying “The way that we lost – it was disappointing. We have to avoid these situations in the future. We have to react.” Given they defeated Watford in November provides a positive atmosphere for the Magpies and Benitez will be hoping to return to Newcastle with three points in the bag.
Troubles at both ends of the pitch have plagued Newcastle in recent weeks though, the return of Shelvey to the midfield should strengthen their play, but they will now be without Ki due to the Asian Games. Salomon Rondon didn’t feature against Liverpool but has looked good with three attacking returns over five games and could return.
Predicted Starting XIs
Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Holebas, Mariappa, Cathcart, Femenia; Pereyra, Capoue, Doucoure, Quina; Deeney, Deulofeu
Newcastle United (4-4-1-1): Dubravka; Dummett, Fernandez, Lascelles, Yedlin; Kenedy, Diame, Shelvey’ Ritchie; Muto; Rondon
Score Prediction: Watford 2 Newcastle United 0
In front of the Watford faithful and coming off a tough loss, look for Watford to come out and dominate the early portion of the game and set the tempo. Watford continue to play a high tempo, good brand of football and they are in a better state than when they visited St. James’ Park a few months ago. Newcastle have struggled to find the net recently having only scored three times in six fixtures and if Watford manage to score two it’s hard to see the Magpies matching them.