13:30 BST, Sunday August 26th, Vicarage Road, Sky Sports Main Event
Watford will look to make it three league wins in a row when Crystal Palace head to Vicarage Road in Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off.
Javi Gracia’s men have made an impressive start to the new campaign with two wins from two games, following up an opening day win over Brighton and Hove Albion with a surprise 3-1 victory away at Burnley last time out.
Crystal Palace have claimed three points from their opening two games, with Roy Hodgson’s side beating Fulham on the opening day before losing to Liverpool on Monday evening.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka will miss out for the Eagles after his dismissal on Monday, while Gracia has no new injury worries.
Last Time Out
Burnley 1-3 Watford
Burnley boss Sean Dyche has opted to rotate his squad in the early stages of the season due to his side’s involvement in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League.
He saw his team comfortably beaten, though, by a clinical Watford last Sunday. The Clarets were behind inside three minutes when former Claret Andre Gray neatly finished a driven Troy Deeney cross. James Tarkowski headed the home side level from a corner only minutes later.
A clever, incisive pass from Abdoulaye Doucoure found Deeney in space shortly after the restart and the forward finished smartly to put his side back in front. Will Hughes found himself in space when the ball broke his way six minutes into the second half and he powered his effort beyond a diving Joe Hart to seal the win.
Crystal Palace 0-2 Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool ground out a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in South London on Monday night.
In an open first period, both sides had chances to take the lead, with Andros Townsend’s long range curling effort cracking Alisson Becker’s crossbar. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah had opportunities at the other end, though it was the latter who earned his side a penalty on the stroke of half time.
James Milner stepped up and buried the spot kick, sending Wayne Hennessey the wrong way and Liverpool were a goal to the good at the break. Mane then doubled the lead in injury time when he neatly beat the Eagles’ defence and rounded Hennessey to slot home.
Gracia will see no need to change a winning side and will probably continue with the Deeney and Gray partnership.
Doucoure and Capoue will take their usual positions in the midfield while Roberto Pereyra and Hughes will hope to continue impressive starts out wide.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Roy Hodgson will be forced to make a change at right back with Win-Bissaka missing out through suspension. Joel Ward is the obvious replacement.
Christian Benteke’s poor form could pave the way for a start for new signing Jordan Ayew up front, while Jeffrey Schlupp will hope to start on the left side of midfield.
Key Battle: Will Hughes vs Patrick van Aanholt
Hughes has had a bright start to the season, but is arguably lucky to be in contention to start this one after escaping a red card for a reckless lunge on Burnley’s Stephen Ward last time out.
His precise, powerful finish at Turf Moor will have done wonders for his confidence going forward and boss Gracia seems intent on giving the ex-Derby County man plenty of minutes.
Watford’s midfield has been fluid and interchangeable so far this season, but van Aanholt will give the right midfielder defensive duties to think about.
The Crystal Palace left back has developed a reputation for his marauding, driving runs from a defensive position and Hughes will be asked to track the runs of his opposite number to provide added cover in front of Daryl Janmaat.
Can Watford maintain their winning start?
The Hornets, much like they did last season, have begun brightly and they have six points out of a possible six which will delight Gracia and the Watford fans.
Turf Moor isn’t an easy place to pick up a victory so that result will do his players’ confidence a world of good. Crystal Palace, though, aren’t the same team as they were 12 months ago.
Hodgson’s men are much tighter defensively and matched Liverpool for a majority of the 90 minutes on Monday night; the Reds had to dig in to claim the win.
The Hornets will face Spurs, Manchester United and Arsenal in three of their next four matches following this clash with Palace, so Gracia will be eager to get a maximum nine points on the board ahead of a tricky run of games.
Are Palace being held back by an inconsistent attack?
Benteke is enduring a torrid time in attack for the Eagles — he scored only three league goals in the whole of last season.
Hodgson’s patience and persistence with the Belgian is admirable, but his dismal record must soon speak for itself. Benteke has started both fixtures so far but hasn’t completed the 90 minutes in either, nor has he threatened.
Benteke’s confidence is in the gutter, meaning Palace are turning to Wilfried Zaha, who also struggles for consistency. There is no doubting that the Eagles have strengthened defensively under Hodgson, but is the lack of a reliable, constant goal scoring threat harming them?
In reserve, Hodgson’s options are limited to a less-than-convincing Alexander Sorloth, though the recruitment and return to fitness of Ayew could ease worries.
Prediction: Watford 2-2 Crystal Palace
While Watford are playing with confidence, Palace won’t be feel too down on their luck after losing to a Liverpool outfit that will be contending for honours come the end of the season.
Switching to a 4-4-2 formation has given Watford a greater attacking threat and Deeney and Gray are fast-developing a threatening understanding that could give any defence an issue. If Gracia persists with the pair, the Hornets could notch up a respectable goal tally.
Palace will need Zaha to fire, but their creative threat in midfield could unlock the Watford defence — it could be a cracker at Vicarage Road. 2-2.
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