15:00 KO (BST); Saturday 23rd September; Liberty Stadium (Swansea, England)
The Swans have tipped convention on its head with both league games at the Liberty Stadium ending in defeat while they enjoy a healthy away record that is yet to see them concede a goal on their travels.
It’s another home test for them this weekend though, with Watford making the trip to Wales on Saturday afternoon. Having only lost one of their previous ten (W5 D4) home fixtures against the Hornets in the league, Paul Clement will be hopeful of stopping the rot this weekend.
Watford had started the season well until last weekend’s humbling at the hands of Manchester City. It was a definite learning experience for the Watford players and how they react from the defeat will set the course for the coming months.
Having won their first two league games on the road 2-0, Watford now have the chance to secure three successive away wins in the top-flight for the first time in the club’s history.
In a city which has not been a happy hunting ground, Watford will need to forget the past in order to move forward.
Last time out
Reading 0 – 2 SWANSEA CITY (Carabao Cup)
Swansea changed personnel from last weekend and held off a spirited but ultimately blunt Reading attack.
Alfie Mawson was one of the few players to retain his place in the side and he produced the star performance of the evening. Proving powerful at both ends of the pitch, he was magnificent at the back and headed in Renato Sanches’ corner for the opening goal.
Sanches himself continues to show glimpses of talent underneath a skin of clumsiness and unforced mistakes, however, fellow deadline day signing Wilfried Bony looks to be returning to fitness with an improved, although, not fully refined display.
It was another new recruit which made the biggest impact for the Swans as Roque Mesa finally showed why the club spent £11m for his services.
With a lot of one-touch passes, Mesa dictated the direction and tempo of Swansea’s game reminiscent of the style in which Swansea played when they first arrived in the Premier League.
WATFORD 0 – 6 Manchester City (Premier League)
Heading into this match unbeaten and showing good form, the Hornets were well and truly stung as City dismantled them in their own home. Three goals inside ten first-half minutes left Watford’s players shell-shocked, however, they came back in the second half attempting to provide dignity to the scoreline.
After weathering the early storm, City then added another three goals which gave a harsh look to the scoreline despite the Citizens being the far better team.
It was a definite learning experience for the Watford players and although Silva argued that two of the first three goals were offside and his team were denied a clear penalty; he had no complaints about the direction of the result.
With his new wingers Carrillo and Richarlison both looking lively during the game, it wasn’t as abject of a performance as the score would suggest and Silva now needs to get his players to accept this and fight on in the league.
Kyle Bartley (knee), Sung-Yueng Ki (fitness) and Nathan Dyer (Achilles) are again the only injury doubts that Paul Clement has approaching this weekend’s game, meaning he could revert to a similar team which held Tottenham to a draw last weekend, although Roque Mesa would be unlucky to miss out on a starting place after his impressive game against Reading.
With Miguel Britos suspended and Younes Kaboul (leg), Craig Cathcart (knee), Sebastian Prödl (hamstring) and Mauro Zárate (fitness) all unavailable, Marco Silva finds himself with the same choice as he had this time last week.
After a week’s rest due to falling out of the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle, some minor tweaks can be expected to last weekend’s team as Silva aims to refocus his side and continue the improvement he’s achieved since he arrived in the summer.
Key Battle: Roque Mesa vs Abdoulaye Doucouré
With a tight battle in the offing, both teams will opt for a defensive formation that will keep their side compact and robust from their opponents raids. The central midfield role will play a huge part in this and Mesa is likely to fill this space for the home side after impressing in the midweek cup match.
While he will undoubtedly need to step up another level with a Premier League game ahead of him, Mesa has the ability to not only break up play but set the passing tone which Clement is trying to return to the Liberty Stadium.
Standing opposite the Spaniard is another player who has a fine range of passing and being a disruptive influence on the opposition. Doucouré was distinctly below-par against Manchester City last weekend after being one of the Hornets’ standout players in recent months.
Unlike Mesa, the Frenchman prefers to carry the ball out of the danger area rather than a simple give-and-go, and these two opposing styles will be reflected in the way the teams play against each other across the pitch.
Past or present
Marco Silva has stated his belief that Andre Gray will eventually hit his stride and get amongst the goals for his new side. After a slow start to life in Watford, the £18.5m striker has yet to make the net bulge and has looked off the pace in his new yellow shirt.
On the bench, Silva has the option of resting his new striker and playing Troy Deeney who is rumoured to have fallen out with his new manager. After making brief substitute appearances in the previous three league games, he could add something different to the Hornets’ attack and let Gray know his place is not assured, especially considering Deeney scored more goals than Gray last season.
Another old face who could be in trouble at Watford is Heurelho Gomes. With a tendency to flip between brilliant and blundering, the deadline day arrival of Orestis Karnezis could see the 36-year-old Brazilian ‘keeper looking at a spell on the sidelines.
With Silva heaping plenty of praise on Daniel Bachmann, there are potentially three choices for the number one shirt, although it remains to be seen whether the past or the present hold the immediate key to Watford’s future.
Patience or performance
With several of the new faces at Swansea taking time to bed into their new club, Paul Clement has a tricky choice to make regarding their integration into the team.
As many first-team choices are available to him, especially in midfield, he will have to choose between providing his new recruits with game-time to aid and quicken the process or leave them on the sidelines in favour of some old heads who can deliver but will not move the club forwards from last year’s position.
Frank de Boer’s short reign has shown the folly of trying to adopt change too quickly already this season and Clement will well know it’s a results-based business he’s in when all is said and done.
The sensible option, therefore, seems to be to only bleed some of his under-performing stars into the starting lineup, but which ones and which positions are tough questions with wins becoming ever-more important.
PREDICTION: Swansea City 0 – 2 Watford
This fixture has a history of being a low-scoring tie with only three goals produced from their previous four meetings in the Premier League. Both sides are likely to favour defence and for Swansea, this is the only area on the pitch which they look to have got right this season.
Watford will carry a threat going forwards and with a point to prove after their humiliating loss to City, they could make it a third consecutive 2-0 win away from home this weekend.
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