Back in November, the Hornets traveled north to St. James and came away empty handed as the Magpies knocked in a set piece late in the game to give them a 1-0 victory. It was the start of a downward trend, something Watford supporters had seen in years past. Watford outplayed Newcastle but came away frustrated. Now as we work our way to the end of 2018, Newcastle is struggling to generate goals, while Watford comes of a tough 2-1 loss, on the back of two wins.
Watford enter he game with 27 points, good for 7th in the league table, while Rafa’s Magpies are struggling to stay clear of the relegation zone, on 17 points, just five points away from the drop in 15th place. While Watford have tradtionally struggled in the second half of the season, they have a chance to start the rest of the campaign on a high note. “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. I’m happy with their behaviour and I’m sure we’ll keep it in the future as well,” said manager Javi Gracia.
Watford open with four favorable fixtures, which gives them a chance to pocket just a few more points before of Spurs, City and United come calling. Watford cannot overlook Newcastle, as Jonjo Shelvey returns to the pitch after missing four games due to injury. Benitez will welcome him back, as Ki Sung-Yeung has departed for the Asia Games and will be unavailable.
Up front, Salomon Rondon has been Newcastle’s most in form forward, however he missed out at Liverpool. I suspect he returns to spearhead the Magpies attack at Vicarage Road. Defensively, Newcastle conceded four to Liverpool, but just three more over four games. While Watford doesn’t possess the attack of the Reds, Watford have found their shooting boots, as witnessed by the devastating volley off a corner kick on Boxing Day for the Hornets to draw level against Chelsea.
Gracia has one injury of note, Christan Kabasele won’t be available after colliding with the goal post in the Chelsea game, I suspect Adrian Mariappa will stand in for the Belgium. Andre Gray continues to be sidelined with a calf injury, but it does appear that Daryl Janmaat is back and ready when Gracia needs his. Kiko Femenia hasn’t been overly impressive, but has gotten the job down on the right flank, I believe it’s his job to keep.
We’ve seen some excellent play with Roberto Pereyra and Gerard Deulofeu, both players in good good recently. You could also toss in the captain, Troy Deeney, who continues to be a big physical presence on the pitch, as the leader for Watford. His goal against West Ham was a great moment, as Deeney looks to get back on track, after some golden chances in recent games have gone begging.
Defensively, the play of Ben Foster has been nothing short of outstanding. While he’s kept a single clean sheet over the last four games, he’s put on a goalkeeping display that rivals that of any other in the Premier League. He continues to be the best player on the pitch for the Hornets and provide a boost for the players ahead of him, as well as bringing a sense of leadership and stability to the Watford back line.
Projection for this game, 2-0 Watford. They just have too many weapons that are ticking over right now. Wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Pereyra and Deulofeu net on Satuday, as the Golden Boys keep it clean at Vicarage Road. #COYH