Watford will be hoping they can be the first time to derail the Manchester City juggernaut as they host the defending Premier League Champions on Tuesday.
Watford are in a slump. After their early ignition, Javi Gracia and his men have just been too inconsistent and find themselves on the wrong side of the form table. The Hornets are in freefall, with just a point from their last four matches, and are just clinging on to their spot at 10th on the table.
Manchester City, on the other hand, are yet to drop the ball in the Premier League this season, although the two draws do show that they can be stopped. But, there has been no indication from a domestic team that City are beatable. Their 3-1 win over Bournemouth though, saw them having to work hard and perhaps, Javi Gracia will be looking to take some cues from Eddie Howe’s playbook.
It is more in Watford’s hands than anything else. Manchester City have been prone to dropping points and their performance levels during the midweek fixtures, with their displays in the Champions League a prime example. City’s only weakness might be the fixture congestion and Watford have a chance to exploit in on Tuesday.
Their last meeting at Vicarage Road ended in a whopping 6-0 win for Manchester City and Javi Gracia would hope for his Watford side to do much much better than that.
Now, we take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Javi Gracia loves to deploy the 4-4-2 double 6 formation, which translates to a 4-2-2-2 formation on the field. But, in reality, one of the two number 6 is directed to stay back while the other is allowed to venture forward whenever an opportunity presents itself, giving it a more 4-1-3-2 feel at times.
The back four is likely to witness a couple of changes. Craig Cathcart should retain his place but is likely to be partnered with Christian Kabasele. With Daryl Janmaat doubtful, Kiko Femenia will continue on the right side of the defence. The left side is likely to be guarded by Jose Holebas.
Etienne Capoue generally plays the withdrawn central midfielder role. But, with the Frenchman suspended, he is likely to be replaced by Nathaniel Chalobah, who will partner Abdoulaye Doucoure. Will Hughes and Roberto Pereyra have become key players for Watford and should continue to assume the two advanced midfield roles in the starting eleven.
Upfront, the ideal partnership should be Andre Gray and Troy Deeney. But, while the latter should come into the starting eleven, Gerard Deulofeu’s pace could pose problems for Manchester City. So, the Spaniard is likely to partner Deeney upfront.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Foster; Femenia, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Doucoure, Chalobah; Hughes, Pereyra; Deeney, Deulofeu
Claudio Bravo, Eliaquim Mangala and Benjamin Mendy are all sidelined while Kevin De Bruyne is racing against time to be fit for the crunch holiday phase of the year. Sergio Aguero missed the 3-1 win against Bournemouth and there is a chance he could be unavailable till the turn of the year. Oleksandr Zinchenko suffered a broken nose in the aforementioned match and is also a doubt.
The back four is all but sorted, with Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko’s unavailability likely to thrust Fabian Delph back into the lineup. Kyle Walker, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte complete the defence.
In midfield, David Silva and Fernandinho are guaranteed starters. But, with Kevin De Bruyne absent, the third spot is up for grabs. While Ilkay Gundogan would be a more natural fit to the role, Bernardo Silva has performed exquisitely in recent times and could be preferred over the German box-to-box midfielder.
In attack, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have been doing well. But, Sane could be rested in favour of Riyad Mahrez. Upfront, Sergio Aguero’s injury means an automatic start for Gabriel Jesus, who could use the run of the matches to regain his status as the first-choice striker at Manchester City.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Delph; Silva, Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling
1. Manchester City have had humongous wins on their last two visits to Vicarage Road, running out winners with a combined scoreline of 11-0.
2. In the last five league meetings between the two clubs, Watford have scored just two goals in response to Manchester City’s 18.
3. Manchester City’s Goal Difference (+37) is more than twice the total number of goals Watford have managed to score in the Premier League this season (17).
4. Watford have scored just once in their last four league games, with three of them ending in defeats.
5. Watford have lost three of their last four home games in the Premier League.
Player to Watch
Regardless of whether he starts, Riyad Mahrez is expected to chalk up some game time against his name on Tuesday. The winger has not had the best of starts to his debut season with Manchester City and will be looking to impress in whatever minutes he is afforded by Pep Guardiola.
Watford have had trouble dealing with pace upfront in recent matches, which could play to Mahrez’s strengths.
Watford 1-3 Manchester City
Bournemouth played better than most of the other better-placed opponents Manchester City have come across this season. But, the fact that Pep Guardiola and his men still won three points, that too with a two-goal margin says something about the quality and endurance level of the team.
Manchester City are still the heavy favourites according to most bookmakers. Unibet promo code 2018 provides bonus codes to boost your deposits on various bookmaking websites.
Watford though, will be hungry for point(s) to put on the board while also looking to use the Manchester City game as a springboard to breathe new life into their season after stumbling over the last few weeks. But, City should pull through, despite Watford likely to make it tough for them on Tuesday. Expect a repeat of the Bournemouth scoreline.