15:00 BST, Saturday 14th April, John Smith’s Stadium (Huddersfield, England)
Being caught at the wrong end of the table with the season drawing to a close is the worst time to lose your form. This is exactly the position Huddersfield now find themselves as they look to break a 5 match run that’s only produced 2 points. Where home form was their strength at the beginning of this season, this has slowly ebbed away, however, a win this weekend would see the Terriers complete the double over Watford after an impressive 4-1 win in Hertfordshire in mid-December.
While Watford are almost safe this year, they are still struggling to gain a solid footing under the direction of their new manager, Javi Gracia. Watford, too, have been reliant on their home form and are yet to score a goal on the road in any of Gracia’s four away matches in the league. With key players out of form and little of importance left to play for this season, Gracia faces a real challenge in trying to right the club’s course over the next month.
Last Time Out
Brighton 1-1 Huddersfield Town (Premier League)
The Terriers played their part in an entertaining clash which could not provide the winning goal that both teams desperately craved. It was an all-around solid display from Huddersfield who didn’t have any players suffering an off-day but neither did they have any inspirational displays.
Jonas Lössl suffered the calamity of having the ball rebound off the post into him and then over the goal-line for the opening goal, however, the rest of his game more than made up for this as he produced several key saves for his team.
Steve Mounie restored parity within 3 minutes of the own-goal but neither team could make another breakthrough during the hour of football which followed. Having had most possession (59%), more shots (15) than their opponents and finished the game with an extra player on the pitch, Wagner had to settle for what was effectively a good away point but perhaps felt it should have been bettered by another two.
Watford 1-2 Burnley (Premier League)
A loss of focus saw the Hornets forego their lead to leave empty-handed in what was Gracia’s first home defeat since taking over the Hertfordshire club. A strong start to the game suggested the Hornets would again prosper from their impressive home form, a belief which was heightened when Roberto Pereyra fired them into a deserved lead after an hour played. Pereyra could and should have scored twice earlier as he put in possibly his best performance yet in a yellow shirt.
Two goals in a three-minute period soon followed, both of which exposed Watford’s current weakness from set-plays. Both Burnley goals were scored from second-balls that came directly from free-kicks and this is something which Gracia must now address with a matter of urgency. Unable to inspire a recovery against a very well organised Burnley side, Watford suffered defeat despite being the better team for much of the match.
Huddersfield Town Lineup
David Wagner faces the same problem as last week, missing both Danny Williams (ankle) and Elias Kachunga (ankle) from his squad as he searches for an elusive win. Tom Ince could see himself dropped from the team in favour of Collin Quaner after an underwhelming performance last weekend, otherwise, the Terriers are likely to remain unchanged from the eleven who started at Brighton.
There’s also no change for Gracia this weekend as Molla Wagué (hamstring) Younes Kaboul (fitness) Gerard Deulofeu (foot) Tom Cleverley (hamstring) and Nathaniel Chalobah (knee) all remain injured. After starting with the same starting eleven in each of his last two games, this weekend’s line-up from Gracia could also have a similar look to it.
Key Battle: Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town) vs Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford)
With an attritional battle lying ahead for both teams in this fixture, a touch of class will be a vital commodity that could define the result. Mooy has been out of form for several weeks at Huddersfield now but he possesses the tools needed to deliver for his side. With an eye for a pass and a player unafraid of making tackles, Mooy could help both his defence and attack claim a much-needed win.
As arguably Watford’s best player of the season, Doucouré also offers both solidity and creativity for his team. Without a goal since his controversial equaliser against Southampton, Doucouré has been relatively quiet and failed to score during the last 10 league games. With speculation continuing to link him with a summer transfer, he will need to show what he’s capable of if he’s to have options available at the end of the season.
Uphill from here
The visit of Watford is Huddersfield’s final fixture of the season against a team in the bottom half of the table. With only 32 points on the board and 5 games remaining, the Terriers will require a minimum of one more win and some draws to secure their top-flight status.
The home games against both Everton and Arsenal appear to be their best chance of picking up points beyond this weekend, however, the importance of their next game cannot be understated. With time running out, home advantage in their favour and given Watford’s poor record away from home, this is as near a must-win game as the Terriers will want to be this season.
Building a better future
While much talk around Watford has been centred around their potential plans to improve Vicarage Road, it’s the improvements on the pitch which are surely the most important thing for them to consider.
As a team with a habit of losing form through the final weeks of a season, Watford need to focus on the team’s long-term ambitions during the next 5 fixtures. Much speculation has been attributed to the futures of the star players, however, more stars will be required after a disappointing second half of this campaign.
Gracia may only have been in charge for 10 matches but he should already be forming conclusions as to how he can progress the side. With so many managers having failed to find consistency from the Hertfordshire hot seat, it seems no small task for the Spaniard to take on this summer.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 1-1 Watford
Huddersfield should be made favourites to win this fixture, however, they’ve been far from convincing for too long now. Watford have conceded at least two goals in each of their last 4 matches but this will be a problem Gracia tries to address this weekend and could well lead to a tighter and more subdued game than the home side want.
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