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09 Feb 2018

Premier League 17/18 Week 27: West Ham United vs Watford - lineups, preview and prediction

Premier League 17/18 Week 27: West Ham United vs Watford -
lineups, preview and prediction

An injury-ravaged Hammers side entertain a refreshed Hornets side under new management in this mid-table battle

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15:00 GMT, Saturday 10th February, London Stadium (London, England)

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Last time out

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West Ham lineup

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Watford lineup

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Key battle

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Talking points

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Prediction

(Photo credit: Hammersfan)

15:00 GMT, Saturday 10th February, London Stadium (London, England)

While both teams sit close to the centre of the Premier League table, neither can rest easy just yet. Far from escaping the clutches of a relegation battle, both club’s are in need of consistency to break free.

West Ham’s form is currently slipping in the wrong direction. With only two league defeats from their last eight fixtures, an FA Cup defeat at the hands of Wigan Athletic means they’ve now lost two of their last three matches.

The Hornets find themselves coming into this match with their form heading in the opposite direction. This time last week the Hornets had only one win from their previous twelve league games, however, Javi Gracia’s arrival has produced a defeat, followed by a draw and then a glorious victory of Chelsea.

While David Moyes has never lost a league match (W3, D1) at home against Watford, he has also never beaten a side managed by Gracia (D1, L1)  but history is likely to count for little in what should prove an evenly contested fixture.

Last time out

Brighton 3-1 West Ham United (Premier League)

West Ham fell to a deserved defeat with a performance that was bereft of both quality and energy. Brighton scored an early goal to take firm control of the game but with five defenders and two holding-midfielders, West Ham lacked the spark and creativity to fight their way back into the game.

While they did score an equaliser on the half-hour mark through a well-finished shot by Chicharito, Brighton remained the more dominant team and the more likely to score again. While Brighton have been lacking goals and creativity this season, the fact they managed 21 shots in response to West Ham’s 4 illustrates how far on top the Seagulls actually were.

Once Brighton took the lead for the second time in this match, West Ham appeared resigned to their fate, something which harked back to the early stages of the season when Slaven Bilic was still in charge of the club.

Watford 4-1 Chelsea (Premier League)

Watford claimed their first victory over Chelsea for 19 years in dramatic fashion as three late goals rocked the Blues to their core. Watford started the game brightly and were the more adventurous of the two sides during the early exchanges but Tiemoue Bakayoko’s 29th-minute dismissal for two yellow card offences handed them a further advantage.

Gerard Deulofeu was again the star player for Watford in what was his home debut, providing a constant source of worry for the Blues defence. 

Playing on the right side of attack, Deulofeu caused some controversy as he went down easily at the end of the first half to win a penalty which allowed Troy Deeney to open the scoring. His brilliance was indisputable though, taking four shots and making four key assists while also scoring an impressive goal of his own making.

When Eden Hazard produced a wonderful 82nd-minute equaliser it seemed that Watford’s chance of victory had passed, however, this only proved to catalyse the Hornets who upped their tempo to provide their own sting to the current league champions.

West Ham lineup

Marko Arnautovic (hamstring), Manuel Lanzini (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee), Edimilson Fernandes (ankle) and Andy Carroll (ankle) all remain injured while Arthur Masuaku remains suspended for the next two league games. However, Moyes has a full defensive squad to choose from with the return of both Winston Reid and Jose Fonte. Patrice Evra is also in the frame to make his debut while Jordan Hugill could be a surprise inclusion after the 25-year-old came off the bench in the closing stages of the defeat to Brighton.

Watford lineup

Gracia continues to battle against injuries with Heurelho Gomes (back), Francisco Femenia (hamstring), Miguel Britos (leg), Younes Kaboul (fitness), Molla Wague (hamstring,) Craig Cathcart (knee), Will Hughes (hamstring) and Nathaniel Chalobah (knee) all still missing for the Hornets. There’s also a doubt surrounding Christian Kabasele (hamstring) although Tom Cleverley is expected to return to the team this weekend while new loan-signing Didier Ndong is available to make his debut after serving a three-game suspension for a red card picked up at Sunderland against Cardiff City.

Key battle

Javier Hernandez (West Ham) vs Orestis Karnezis (Watford)

Moyes’ comments that he wanted to bring an extra striker into the club last month will have done little to impress Hernandez who has found himself being marginalised at a second club by the Scottish manager. With two goals from hi last three games, it appears to have had the opposite effect on the pitch though. Another goal this weekend for the Mexican could go a long way to securing a brighter future next season, whichever club he finds himself playing for.

Having already conceded 45 goals in the league, Watford have one of the worst defences in the Premier League. The arrival of Gracia appears to have helped stem this flow with only three goals leaked from the three games he’s been in charge but so too does this correspond with Karnezis’ introduction to the team. With Gomes expected to retire at the end of this season, Karnezis can use this opportunity to strengthen his chances of becoming a regular in the team in the long-term.

Talking points

Short-term solutions

The signing of free-agent Patrice Evra this week is a move which Moyes has made to shore up his paper-thin squad in light of an injury crisis currently gripping the club.

It also appears that the club are increasingly turning to mercenary figures in the football world rather than making any significant investment in the future. With high-profile names such as João Mário, Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Hernández joining the club on large wages, the Hammers are bringing in players who will have a limited shelf-life at the club.

With David Moyes’ own future still shrouded in mystery, it offers the club a chance to shake up the playing staff in the summer if needed, however, it also creates an environment which does not provide stability or any significant direction for the younger players to grow towards.

Strange reactions

The goal celebrations of Watford Captain Troy Deeney caught the FA’s eye when he raised his middle finger in the direction of the cameras after scoring. While his actions were seen as ill-advised and strange, the FA also reacted unexpectedly by deciding not to press formal charges against the striker. There had appeared to be a precedent set when Dele Alli was handed a one-game suspension and heavy fine for a similar motion whilst on England duty earlier this season.

In the Monday-night games other bizarre incident, Richarlison was captured crying on the bench after being replaced on the pitch at around the hour mark. Despite playing well, a yellow card picked up by the Brazilian tipped his manager’s hand into making the change. With rumours circulating that Richarlison is becoming disenchanted at Vicarage Road, he now has to contend with another wide-forward taking most of the headlines for Watford.

Prediction

West Ham United 1-3 Watford

The Hammers may only have lost one of their last seven home games in the Premier League but the reality of an ageing and depleted playing squad is beginning to sink in. Watford will be hugely inspired from their win over Chelsea and should gain back-to-back victories in the league for the first time in two and a half months. For West Ham, this is likely to produce more anger in the stands to be directed at their under-siege board members.