15:00 KO (BST); Saturday 26th August; Vicarage Road (Watford, England)
Watford have made a determined and entertaining beginning to the season for their fans, scoring five goals from their opening two games which has seen them net four points to make a healthy start.
The manner in which Marco Silva has his team playing is arguably the most impressive part, especially considering the dreary way in which the Hornets season tailed off earlier this year. Silva will demand his team shows a positive reaction to their disappointing midweek cup match, especially as his players have already shown what they’re capable of in the Premiership.
Brighton have had a tough start to their first-ever Premiership campaign following two consecutive defeats. While many people forecast that Chris Hughton’s side would find the transition into the Premiership difficult, this will not make the situation any easier for those connected to the club.
As the first of four games, they can realistically expect to win. The game against Watford sees them face a team they will be hoping to take points from and also a team whom they’ve only beaten twice from their last ten competitive meetings.
LAST TIME OUT
WATFORD 2 – 3 Bristol City (EFL Cup – Second round)
Watford fell to a shock defeat at home to Bristol City, the team who are now the lowest placed side remaining in the competition. Marco Silva was left furious at what he alluded to as a performance tinged with complacency, something which was a clear problem within this team last season.
Having made six changes to the starting line-up from their previous Premiership match, there was enough quality on the pitch theoretically, in practice this was found to be sorely lacking.
Ironically for the Hornets, the one player who showed a glimmer of quality in this match is a player called Success. Isaac Success only entered the game as a half-time substitute, a sure sign that Silva had read the riot act to his under-performing side during the interval. Success not only looked lively down the right wing, his crosses proved to be one of the few threats that Watford posed to the Bristol defence.
BRIGHTON 1 – 0 Barnet (EFL Cup – Second round)
Chris Hughton made the bold decision to make wholesale changes for the Clash against Barnet, a choice that was ultimately rewarded with a narrow win. With all 11 players from the Leicester defeat rested, only three of whom made it onto the substitutes bench, it was an opportunity for Brighton’s squad players to assert their claims for an improved place in the teams pecking order.
Most eyes will have been trained keenly on Anthony Knockaert as last year’s Championship player of the season continues to make his way back towards the first team following an ankle injury. Despite missing a glorious chance to give his side an early lead, Knockaert gave a good account of himself and was brought off at half-time for James Tilley, suggesting that he could be in Hughton’s thoughts for the trip to Watford.
The fact that Tilley was the player to make the breakthrough and earn his team a place in the third round certainly makes life interesting for the Seagulls manager.
José Holebas is suspended following his red card in the closing stages of the EFL Cup defeat by Bristol City. Also unavailable for this game will be Younes Kaboul (leg) and Daryl Janmaat (knock) in defence, however, Craig Cathcart (knee) and Christian Kabasele (knock) are both expected to return from recent injuries to bolster Silva’s options.
Roberto Pereyra (groin) is also a major doubt while Mauro Zárate continues his recovery from a long injury lay-off. New winger Andre Carrillo is not expected to go straight into the first team following his loan switch from Benfica, although he could feature from the bench at some point during the game.
Izzy Brown (hamstring) Sam Baldock (calf) and Beram Kayal (leg) are all unavailable, while Steve Sidwell (back) and Glenn Murray (ankle) are also doubtful to make the starting eleven. Jose Izquierdo will now be available to make his debut, while Solly March may be used in the number 10 role due to Brighton’s shortage of striker options for this game.
Key Battle: Nathaniel Chalobah vs Dale Stephens
He may have made the headlines earlier this week for Harry Arter’s unsporting behaviour, but Chalobah has largely avoided the glare of the limelight since his move to Watford. This is mainly due to the exceptional form of the man playing alongside him, Abdoulaye Doucouré.
Chalobah has been quietly effective in the Hornets midfield though and has performed his defensive duties tidily and efficiently to provide a foundation for his team to build from.
Similar to this, Dale Stephens has continued where he left off at the end of last season. Playing the deep-lying midfield role to shield his defence, Stephens is a large reason why Brighton have looked so resilient and organised in defence, particularly in their opening fixture against Manchester City where they held the game to a stalemate for 70 minutes despite constant waves of pressure.
Neither player is liable to set the Premiership on fire this season, however, both players will have a major say in the way their team’s set up in this game and the fixtures to follow.
Try before you buy
Watford’s latest signing, Andre Carrillo, arrives at Watford in a deal which is becoming an increasingly popular trend amongst Premiership clubs and the football world in general. The 26-year-old Peruvian winger has joined the Hornets on a loan which has an option to buy him outright upon completion of the year-long deal.
This is an arrangement which is beneficial to all parties concerned. For Benfica, it’s a step closer to shedding a player from their books who has only started three league games in the previous season and subsequently been deemed surplus to requirements. For the player himself it’s possibly a final chance to maintain a career playing at a high professional level, while for Watford, they receive a player they’re interested in on an extended loan before choosing if they wish to purchase him.
Whether Carrillo is able to fulfil the potential that Silva saw in him when he coached him at Sporting Lisbon remains to be seen, however, this type of deal is likely to be seen several more times across the land in the coming days.
Brighton’s all-new attack
Jose Izquierdo, Brighton’s new £13.5m Columbian has finally received clearance to play for the Seagulls following his successful application to the FA for a licence. While he has not played a competitive match since July, he is unlikely to have a major impact on the game, however, he could feature at least some part of this match after spending a week in intensive training.
Brighton have also secured the services of Raphael Dwamena this week in a £12m deal from FC Zurich. After only spending six months at the Swiss club, Dwamena still scored 12 goals in his 18 appearances and will add a new level of threat to the Seagulls attack.
With a settling-in period likely to acclimatise these new signings to both their new home and their new league, Brighton will soon have an all-new attack that could fire them on to a brighter future.
PREDICTION: Watford 2 – 1 Brighton
Brighton have added some much-needed re-enforcements to the attacking side of their team this week as Hughton tries to bring his side up to Premiership standard. While his new players will not have a strong impact in this weekends game, it looks like a step in the right direction for them.
Watford, meanwhile, will face the wrath of Marco Silva and I can foresee a much better display from his side this weekend, with the Portuguese manager likely to continue to weave his magical home form spell in the league.
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