We look ahead to Sunday’s fixture, as Stoke travel to Vicarage Road to face an in-form Watford side who are flourishing under new boss Walter Mazzarri.
Watford vs Stoke City
Date: Sunday 27th November 2016
Venue: Vicarage Road, Watford
Competition: Premier League
Referee: Mr Bobby Madley
Last time they met: Watford 1-2 Stoke City
Latest betting odds (bet365):
Our prediction: Stoke to win, and BTTS: 5/1
Long-shot: The big man to net on his return? Giannelli Imbula to score anytime, and The Potters to win 3-1 – 75/1
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The spirit in Watford is very high at the moment after Watford bounced back from a heavy defeat against Liverpool with a surprising win over the current Premier League champions, Leicester.
After a stunning start to the season, Watford current sit in eighth position in the Premier League – just a point off Manchester United in sixth.
Whilst everyone thought the change of management was harsh in the summer, when The Hornets famously got rid of their manager, Quique Sanchez Flores, new boss Walter Mazzarri has Watford playing some excellent stuff in a system that really suits the team, having deployed the three-man defence like his Italian counterpart at Chelsea, Antonio Conte.
Mazzarri recently switched to a four-man defence at Anfield, however that was quickly thrown out of the window as Watford were hit for six by a very impressive Liverpool team.
Watford are set to be without defenders Younes Kaboul and Juan Zuniga who have minor knocks, but Greek defender Jose Holebas returns following suspension.
Isaac Success, Kenedy and Craig Cathcart are also ruled out for Sunday’s game through injury.
What the manager has said:
WM on his decision to drop Odion Ighalo in order to play 3-43:
“Ighalo has been professional and accepted the decision. When he played, even when he didn’t score, he played as well as the whole team has done.
“When we lost and we played badly, he played badly with the whole team, there is no difference.
“I tell him he has to be ready when his moment comes.”
Predicted Watford XI:
Gomes; Prodl, Britos, Mariappa; Janmaat, Capoue, Behrami, Holebas; Amrabat, Deeney, Pereyra
MATCH FACTS [BBC Sport]
- Watford have won six of the previous eight top-flight meetings.
- Stoke have failed to score in six of their last seven matches against Watford, although they did win 2-1 at Vicarage Road last season.
- Walter Mazzarri’s side have won three of their last five five top-flight games.
- The Hornets have conceded the most headed goals (eight) and the most goals from crosses (10) in the Premier League this season.
- Troy Deeney has scored in each of his two Premier League appearances against Stoke.
- Deeney could become the fifth player to score 100 goals for Watford, after Luther Blissett (186), Tommy Barnett (163), Ross Jenkins (142) and Cliff Holton (105).
- Defeat by Bournemouth was Stoke’s first loss in seven league games (W3, D3).
- The Potters have only won one of their last nine Premier League away matches (D3, L5).
- Their sole win in that run was the 2-0 victory at Hull in October.
- Stoke, Watford and West Ham have been given a league-high seven yellow cards for dissent in the Premier League this season.
Mark Hughes travels to Vicarage Road in desperate need of a win to really kick-start a strange campaign so far for The Potters.
Stoke were defeated by AFC Bournemouth in their last game, and Hughes is expected to recall club-record signing Giannelli Imbula, after Joe Allen and Geoff Cameron are set to miss out for Stoke with suspension and injuries retrospectively.
The Welshman also has a dilemma on his hands as to whether he sticks with striker Wilfried Bony, after yet another poor outing in a red and white shirt.
There has been rumours that Wilfried Bony could be on his way to China in January, but Hughes doesn’t expect that move to happen.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference earlier today, Hughes said: “A lot of things have come to the fore to make that happen, not least that Wilf needs to want to go himself.”
He added: “I don’t think he will want to. I think he sees himself very much as a Premier League player this year and in the years to follow.”
Phil Bardsley will be out for at least six-weeks according to Stoke City boss Hughes after the Scotsman ruptured his ligaments last Saturday against Bournemouth.
Stoke have however been handed a boost with the return of Glenn Whelan, who appears instrumental in the heart of the Stoke midfield, and the return of Ibrahim Afellay and Jack Butland to full first team training.
It’s important to remember that Stoke’s defeat last Saturday was only their first defeat in seven Premier League games, and should they beat Watford on Sunday, they will see that as a real stepping stone for yet another top-10 finish this season.
What the manager has said:
MH on Giannelli Imbula:
“We had an honest conversation when he went out of the team and I made it clear there were aspects of his game he needed to improve if he wanted to progress in a really difficult league.
“[He] is a little bit frustrated and he was honest enough to say that, given the amount of ability he has, he wasn’t able to impact games.
“He needed to go out of the team, but we’ve had a really good response on the training pitch and his focus is very much on getting back into the team. It could be this weekend.”
Predicted Stoke City XI:
Grant; Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Whelan, Imbula; Arnautovic, Bojan, Shaqiri; Bony.