With their impressive run of results having come to an abrupt end, Watford will be looking to their FA Cup campaign to provide the boost they need to get their Premier League form back on track. Newcastle, on the other hand, can be forgiven if they decide to sacrifice the game at Vicarage Road seeing as they are effectively fighting for their lives in the league.
Due to their close ties with Udinese and Granada, Watford were able to sign a plethora of new players in the summer without spending too much money, but nobody could know whether such a strategy would produce results. The arrival of former Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores appears to have been the key piece of business seeing that the Spaniard was able to quickly rebuild the squad and he got the Hornets playing and performing much better than anyone could predict. Watford have played some attractive attacking football this season, with Odion Ighalo and bad boy Troy Deeney taking the centre stage, and they even held their own against England’s top sides. Back to back defeats to Spurs and Man City at their Vicarage Road spelled the end of the amazing run, but judging by those performances, the Hornets should be able to return to the right track without any problems, with the game against out-of-sorts Newcastle a perfect opportunity to do so.
Quique Sanchez Flores is expected to rest a couple of star players, with summer recruit Obbi Oulare expected to replace either Odion Ighalo or Troy Deeney.
Nathan Ake remains banned, whereas Tommie Hoban and Joel Ekstrand miss out through groin and knee injuries respectively.
Heavy summer recruitment hinted that Newcastle’s strugglers could soon be over, but it seems that some of the world’s most passionate fans flocking to St James’ Park every other week cannot seem to catch a break. The Magpies have utterly failed to realise their potential this season and even though they were quite unfortunate in some games, they cannot keep blaming bad luck for everything. The reality is that for the second season running Newcastle are very much involved in the relegation tussle and that is definitely not where they want to be. The run of three straight defeats saw Steve McClaren’s charges slip to the relegation zone and with half of the season already gone, things are not looking too promising at the moment. Seeing that Newcastle have some very important Premier League fixtures coming up, the manager will be tempted to rest some of his star footballers and that should further damage his side’s chances of ending the losing run at Vicarage Road.
Jack Colback was the latest player to be added to the infirmary and he is doubtful through a hamstring problem, but Vurnon Anita, Rolando Aarons and Emmanuel Riviere are back.
Steven Taylor is not yet ready to return, while Papiss Cisse, Tim Krul, Gabriel Obertan and Massadio Haidara are definitely out.
Key Factors to Consider
- A total of 12 points separate the two sides in Premiership standings
- Watford recorded a 2-1 triumph at St James’ Park in September 2015
- The Hornets are unbeaten in four home games vs bottom-table sides (W2 D2)
- Watford scored in each of last six home fixtures (10 goals in total)
- Newcastle boast 2-1-7 away record in this year’s Premier League
In spite of the narrow defeats to top 4 contenders Spurs and Man City, Watford have done enough this season to head into the Newcastle game in great spirits. The Magpies, on the other hand, are very low on confidence and are missing quite a few of important footballers, so home win appears on the cards.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 5/6
Bookmaker: William Hill