It’s a mid-table battle of mediocrity at Vicarage Road as Manuel Pellegrini and the resurgent Hammers visit Watford, as the Hornets look to find form in their last game before the FA Cup final.
Two teams that began the season at opposite ends of the table, meet in the middle, with the winner seeking to take 10th position in the league table. West Ham have won their last two fixtures, at Spurs, 1-0 and last week dismantling Southampton, 3-0, and are perhaps finding form at the wrong time. Watford on the other hand have said goodbye to the yellow brick road as they have struggled of late as they come into this one off back to back to defeats, winning just once in their last five games.
Pellegrini was clearly pleased with his side after last week’s win saying, “We are improving. For me, I think we need to have a more winning mentality in the future but, if you asked me, I think it is a good season.” Starting off with four straight losses this season, the Hammers appear to be firing and the performances look good ahead of next years campaign.
With their win last weekend, the Hammers have improved on their home record the last three seasons, finishing this season with 31 points at London Stadium. This after losing their opening four games. A win at Vicarage Road would go a long way for the Hammers to end the season whilst looking ahead to next year.
While we don’t want to speculate the Hornets are looking past the end of the Premier League season to the FA Cup Final; their form has been dismal and they come into this one off losses to Wolves and Chelsea, dropping them from 7th in the league table to 10th. When asked about his Hornets looking ahead, Gracia stated, “we have to play the final and it’s normal it’s on our minds. But I think the team is always focused on the next game and we were focused today on this game.”
Much like last season, Watford have struggled to close out the season. Comparing the last eight games and the Hornets have just two more points this season than last. Even with the recent struggles, Javi Gracia is still proud at what the team has achieved, “for me, it is better to prepare for a final if you keep doing the same things, the same behaviour. It is better to live with normality every day.”
Ahead of the final game of the seaosn, Gracia has just two players unavailable. Former West Ham youngster Domingos Quina is ruled out with a possible dislocated shoulder, while Seb Prodl continues to train with a knee injury. With an eye on the FA Cup Final, this is the last opportunity for Gracia to run out a full-strength squad in an attempt to find form before they run into a tough Manchester City.
It’s been Andre Gray, the replacement starter, as the man in form, however with Troy Deeney off suspension, Gray will likely start on the bench and be the first man called upon late in the game. He’s been Gracia’s “super sub” the latter part of this season.
Manuel Pellegrini is looking to end the season on a high note, as the Hammers have taken seven points in their last three games, winning the last two against Spurs and Southampton. Seven players make the injury report though, but just three have been ruled out including Andy Carroll for an ankle injury, Andriy Yarmolenko and defender Winston Reid.
The return of Marko Arnautovic has sparked the Hammers as the forward has provided three attacking returns in the last two games, hitting for a brace against the Saints. Michail Antonio has also been hot with two goals in his last three games. It’s been two clean sheets in the last two too as the defense have found some legs and tightened it up at the back.
Pellegrini is looking at finishing the season with 50 points and a win against Watford to cap a successful season he replied, “It means we would have a good season, especially when you compare with last season. That must not be all though, it is important to know that we made an improvement, but we must do better next season.”
Predicted Starting XIs
Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Femenia, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra; Deulofeu, Deeney
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Cresswell; Noble, Rice; Anderson, Lanzini, Antonio; Arnautovic
Score Prediction: Watford 2 West Ham United 3
Whilst the Hammers have played some inspired football recently, Watford has an eye on the FA Cup Final. This could be a revenge game, after the 2-0 loss at London Stadium back in December. It will be close and decided by a single goal.