13:30 BST, Sunday 19th August, Turf Moor (Burnley, England)
Sean Dyche has the unenviable task of making lightning strike twice as he looks to steer his Clarets side to another high finish in the Premier League. A solid but unflattering draw on the South coast last weekend provided a good start for Burnley but Dyche will be keen to turn Turf Moor into the fortress it once was.
Burnley go in search of their first win in seven league games this weekend but will need to do so with little preparation time and facing a team who will be brimming with confidence.
Javi Gracia will have his own problems to attend to despite his side claiming an impressive win last weekend. Watford are without a win in their last 12 Premier League away from home, losing 11 of those and failing to score in any of their previous seven.
A new season breeds new opportunities and with Burnley having played 120 minutes of football on Thursday evening, the Hornets will have the perfect chance to pick up their first win at Turf Moor in 12 attempts on a run now stretching back 14 years.
Last Time Out
Burnley 0-0 İstanbul Başakşehir F.K. [1-0 AET] (Europa League Qualification)
Following their narrow elimination of Aberdeen, Burnley again squeezed through their European qualification adventure by way of extra time.
With 180 minutes of football failing to produce a single goal, Jack Cork changed this for the better only seven minutes into the additional period at Turf Moor.
REUTERS/Carl RecineThe Clarets were far greater value for this win than the scoreline suggests, dominating long periods of the game against their Turkish opponents.
Despite this, Joe Hart was once again a key player for Dyche’s side with another display to suggest his move across the North-West has invigorated him. With four saves in as many minutes at the end of the first half, the England stopper looked unbeatable in goal for his new side.
This win now sets up a final qualifying game against Olympiakos, however, Dyche will be hoping fatigue doesn’t catch up with his players in central midfield who are likely to play again on Sunday.
Watford 2-0 Brighton (Premier League)
Roberto Pereyra stole the headlines with two fine finishes as the Hornets stung the Seagulls to get off to a flying start.
With Richarlison departing and Gerard Deulofeu unfit to play, Pereyra answered his manager’s call for someone to step up and deliver the magic for his team. The home side dominated the match from the beginning and Pereyra’s 35th minute wonder-strike was no less than they deserved for their efforts.
REUTERS/Andrew BoyersBrighton’s defence was a cornerstone of their success last season, however, the Watford forwards opened them up almost at will in this opening game.
With Will Hughes moved to a right-wing position and Etienne Capoue looking in peak form in centreal midfield, Gracia’s biggest problem from this game will be how he can possibly follow the standard his team have proven themselves capable of.
Nick Pope (shoulder) is the only major injury concern for the Clarets although Steven Defour (calf) and Robbie Brady (hamstring) will be eased back into the team following their respective long-term injuries.
After playing in Europe on Thursday, Dyche is likely to shuffle his starting XI with Ben Mee, James Tarkowski, Matt Lowton, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Chris Wood all fitting back into his starting lineup.
Stefano Okaka (thigh) and Tom Cleverley (Achilles) will both miss selection as will Gerard Deulofeu and Nathaniel Chalobah who are still regaining full fitness after problems set them back during this summer.
Although Gracia has a habit of tinkering with his starting XI, this match may see him name an unchanged side as he looks to recapture the form they showed against Brighton.
Key Battle: Jack Cork (Burnley) vs Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)
Chances are likely to be few and far between in this fixture with much of the play hinging on the efforts in the centre of the pitch.
For Jack Cork, he will need to quickly recover from his exertions only two-and-a-half days prior but will undoubtedly be buoyed by the stunning goal he scored on Thursday evening.
REUTERS/Carl Recine The midfielder covers more ground than most, however, and this will be a true test of his stamina against a fresher opponent.
Doucoure was Watford’s best player of last season but looked a shade of his best during their match against the Seagulls last weekend. He looked sluggish and miscontrolled the ball several times throughout the early stages of the game; the midfielder grew into the game during the second half but looked far from being fully match-fit.
If Watford are to break down the Clarets well-disciplined defence in this match, he will need to be much sharper throughout this game and could once more prove crucial to the Hornets hopes.
Dyche's growing abilities
Many people questioned whether Burnley would avoid relegation last season. This season brought a similar line of reasoning due to the added complications facing the Clarets in the form of the Europa League.
With only two outfield players joining the club this summer, it was felt that a lack of depth in the squad could deeply hurt Burnley’s campaign. This was a similar accusation levelled at them last season when they were hit by a series of key injuries over the second half of the season.
REUTERS/Paul Burrows The secret to negotiating his way to success in these adversities’ for Dyche lies in the player management skills he carries. Having players happily fighting for their place in the team whilst maintaining a sense of unity in the dressing room is no easy thing.
Burnley have a good record of bringing players such as Kevin Long epitomising the way they can seamlessly turn fringe players into starters. Dyche’s evolution of Ashley Westwood is the latest success of his player development policy after the midfielder captained the team in European competition despite struggling to get off the bench during much of last season.
Watford’s double act
The decline of the 4-4-2 formation has seen fewer strike partnerships flourish in England’s top tier over recent years. Troy Deeney and Andre Gray are looking to bring back a taste of the traditional as they look to form a winning partnership in attack for Watford this season.
REUTERS/David Klein Further to using two in attack, Gracia set his team up almost as a sequence of partnerships last weekend. A 4-2-2-2 formation meant Watford played a much tighter pattern in defence while the pairing of Pereyra and Hughes were able to drift into the wider positions when the Hornets had control of the ball.
Although this worked perfectly on their way to victory over Brighton, they are likely to flirt with other formations across the season as Gracia believes in adapting his side to best counter the opponent his team face. Deeney and Gray will be eager to form an unbreakable partnership which could see Watford continue to use an attack comprised of two old-fashioned strikers.
Prediction: Burnley 1-0 Watford
Consistency has long been a problem with Watford’s team and is something they can start to put right this weekend.
Burnley will prove a hard nut to crack at Turf Moor and while they may not produce the most exciting brand of football following their midweek venture, they could frustrate their visitors with a narrow, hard-fought victory on Sunday afternoon. 1-0
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