Verdict: Away win
Best Odds: 8/13
The current round of Premier League games has been one that has brought a number of surprising results with no shortage of goals and controversy. Not even the league leaders were spared a shock result as Manchester City were held in a 1-1 draw with Burnley, meaning the sides behind them have been given a rare chance to cut the gap. One side looking to chase City down are Chelsea, and they face a tricky test on Monday as they travel to play Watford.
When Watford began the season with Marco Silva at the helm, they would hardly have thought they would be in this situation after 25 games. The campaign had started superbly with the Hornets winning a number of games in impressive style, and they, along with Burnley, were being hailed as the surprise packages of the season as they led the assault from the other 14 teams on the top six. However, where Burnley have been able to continue to add to their total, Watford have faltered. They have since dispensed of the services of Silva, with Javi Gracia brought in to replace him. Watford currently sit in 11th-place with 27 points following seven wins, six draws and 12 defeats. It seems as though the side have been stuck in the 20’s pointwise for an eternity, and they are now just three points clear of the relegation zone. Their last game ended in a drab 0-0 with Stoke City, and the match before that saw them lose 1-0 to Southampton in the FA Cup. It has not been an ideal start to life in England for Gracia who would have wanted to have taken over from Silva and overseen an immediate impact. Abdoulaye Doucoure is Watford’s top scorer with seven goals, but their real danger man is Richarlison, with the Brazilian showing flashes of his brilliance throughout the season as he has netted five times, while picking up four assists. A real concern for the side is the form of club captain Troy Deeney, with the usually so physical and powerful presence of the player stunted by injury and a loss of form and confidence.
Gracia must contend with a huge injury headache on Monday as they look to get back on track in the league. Heurelho Gomes, Craig Cathcart and Younes Kaboul remain out, while Miguel Britos and Will Hughes are likely to miss the tie too. New signing Didier NDong will have to wait for his first taste of action with Watford due to suspension, but positively for the home side is the fact that Tom Cleverley is likely to return.
Much like Watford, Chelsea and their fans would not have imagined how far off the pace they would be at this point. The Blues currently have 50 points from their 25 games following 15 wins, five draws and five defeats, which means they are 19 points short of Manchester City at the top. Of course, the London side have a game in hand, but a victory would only cut the gap down to 16 points, with the chasm between the two massive. Chelsea will now turn their attention to securing a Champions League place for next season, which would be seen as a success considering the dominance of City this season. Antonio Conte has come under a lot of pressure in recent weeks as his side have struggled, and this was compounded by a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Bournemouth. It is clear that with Tottenham breathing down their necks and Manchester United winning again, Chelsea cannot afford to slip-up, or they may find themselves outside of the Champions League spots. Chelsea have a number of players they can call upon to get across the line, but the player Gracia will be having nightmares about is Eden Hazard. The Belgian is mercurial when on form and can singlehandedly tear a team apart, but Watford will know that if they can halt him then it will stunt the visitors massively. Olivier Giroud is likely to see his first action in a Chelsea shirt with Alvaro Morata still injured and the Frenchman will want to make a big impact to give Conte a good kind of headache.
Morata and Andreas Christensen are out, while David Luiz and Willian are carrying knocks but could yet play their part in the match. Giroud and fellow January signing Emerson could be in line for their debuts on Monday.
In their head-to-head, Chelsea have won 10 times, there have been three draws and Watford can boast just the solitary win.
Watford have not won a single Premier League game in their last five (D2, L3).
Chelsea have only won two of their last nine games in all competitions (D5, L2).
The Blues have netted 45 goals this season, with Watford conceding the same amount.
Morata is Chelsea’s top scorer with 10 goals, while Doucoure is Watford’s with seven.
This is a game that neither can afford to lose as both look to rise up the table and away from the respective danger they find themselves in. Watford are now just three points above the relegation zone, while Chelsea are in danger of losing their Champions League spot. Gracia will target a positive result from the game, but while Chelsea were poor in their last game, they have been good at bouncing back this season, while Watford’s poor form is snowballing.
Verdict: Away win
Best Odds: 8/13
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