Premier League 17/18 Week 33: Watford vs Burnley – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
11th play 7th as the Hornets host an in-form Burnley side who are pushing hard for a European finish
15:00 BST, Saturday 7th April, Vicarage Road (Watford, England)
Javi Gracia has endured mixed fortunes since taking the reins at Watford at the end of January. While he’s done enough to lift them out of the slump they were suffering under Marco Silva, they’ve been beaten more times than they’ve tasted victory. Having only picked up a single point from their last three games, the fabled corner remains unturned for the Hornets but a win over a resurgent Clarets would go a long way to seeing this happen.
Sean Dyche’s side themselves suffered a mid-season dip, something not helped by a spate of long-term injuries to key players in their squad. 10 points collected from a possible 12 over their last 4 games has resurrected their early-season form, ensuring they remain fixed in 7th position. As a club who have already recorded six-times more wins on the road than they managed in the whole of last season, a trip to Vicarage Road will offer a very real chance for them to claim their first double over the Hornets in the English top-flight.
Last Time Out
Watford 2-2 Bournemouth (Premier League)
The Hornets twice took the lead only to be pegged back by the Cherries to leave this match as finely balanced as their standings in the centre of the Premier League table. In a game that was as entertaining as the scoreline suggests, Kiko Femenia had given Watford the lead in the 13th minute as they capitalised on a fast start to the contest.
Having continued to assert their home authority, José Holebas then handled the ball on the cusp of half-time to give away a penalty which would take the teams into the break on an equal footing. Holebas can also consider himself lucky not to receive a red card, preventing what was a clear goal-scoring opportunity with Jordon Ibe waiting to pounce on the ball into the box.
Another fast start saw Roberto Pereyra restore the lead in the 49th minute which led to long periods of Watford domination. Introducing Jermain Defoe into the game almost yielded an instant goal, however, the former England striker converted during injury time to leave Gracia without a win at home for the first time during his reign in Hertfordshire.
West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Burnley (Premier League)
The Clarets secured a victory which was Dyche’s 100th win as Burnley manager with a display that showed just how far he has evolved them. While Dyche stood on the sidelines soaking in his landmark game, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou impressed on the pitch in what was his first start for the club. While his impact slowly ebbed away throughout the course of the game, Burnley continued to control the match against a West Brom side who would part company with their manager soon after the final whistle.
Ashley Barnes put the away side into the ascendancy in the 20th minute with a superb, acrobatic volley as the Clarets made the most of their domination. Chris Wood doubled their lead in the 73rd minute to paper over the cracks of a mixed performance and maintain his fine streak of goals since returning from injury. A late consolation failed to take the shine off Burnley’s day as they held strong for a deserved win.
Molla Wagué (hamstring) Younes Kaboul (fitness) Gerard Deulofeu (foot) Tom Cleverley (hamstring) and Nathaniel Chalobah (knee) all remain unavailable for Watford, however, Christian Kabasele has recovered from his hamstring and should make his return into the team.
Steven Defour (knee) Scott Arfield (calf) Robbie Brady (knee) and Jonathan Walters (knee) are all suffering long-term injuries and will once more miss out this weekend while there’s also a small doubt surrounding Ben Mee who has picked up a minor knock in training this week.
Key Battle: Will Hughes (Watford) vs Jack Cork (Burnley)
Having taken time to make his way into the first team following his summer move to Watford, Hughes made a lasting impression in the Hornets midfield before an injury sidelined him after only five appearances before Christmas. Having now racked up 3 substitute and 1 starting appearance since recovering, Hughes is again looking a key figure for Watford. His assist for Watford’s second goal last weekend was only the tip of his contribution in the game and much more looks sure to follow soon.
Another English midfielder looking to impress in this match is Cork, a player who has played a key part in Burnley’s success this season. Both his passing and his recycling of the ball have been highly impressive consistently and while this may not pick up the headlines for him, his performance will play a major part in the Clarets hopes for a win this weekend.
While his manager had some comforting words for him through the media this week, Andre Gray has not featured for the club in the last 5 games despite being fully fit. With only 9 minutes from substitute appearances between the 2 matches preceding that, the Hornets record signing has work to do to impress his new manager.
The former Burnley player could see action this weekend after having been name-dropped by Gracia in his press conferences, something also made possible by a lack of goals for the club in recent games. With much of Gray’s promise showing through a partnership which flourished between him and Richarlison earlier this season, a return to action for both players could be just the lift the club needs to boost them into a top-half finish.
Battle of the keepers
Tom Heaton is now fit and ready to return for Burnley following a shoulder injury which has seen him only complete the first three matches this season. With his understudy, Nick Pope, having proved himself a more than adequate replacement, there’s now a major battle brewing in the North-West for the starting berth between Burnley’s posts.
What complicates this even more is that both keepers could be argued to be the most likely candidate to start for England in Russia this summer.
They should push each other hard to prove themselves worthy of the role to Sean Dyche. While this benefits England immensely, it also means that Dyche could play a key role in deciding which keeper lines up against Tunisia on the 18th June.
Prediction: Watford 0-1 Burnley
With the last three meetings between these teams all falling the way of the home team, this game could well be the match which breaks that trend. There may not be a huge amount of goals in this fixture but it could prove engrossing and might just see Watford fall to defeat for the first time at Vicarage Road since Gracia joined the club in January due to Burnley’s ability to grind out wins this season.