Watford make their return to Championship life on Friday night after spending five seasons in the Premier League and, as many other relegated clubs have discovered, they may take a while getting used to the transition.
Newcastle, Stoke and West Brom all suffered opening day defeats in recent seasons following their relegation to the Championship after long stints in the top-flight, and Watford head into Friday’s game in nothing short of an injury crisis.
Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu, Danny Welbeck, Andre Gray, Will Hughes, Troy Deeney, Ismaila Sarr and Etienne Capoue are just some of the players missing ahead of the opening day fixture, while key player Abdoulaye Doucoure has departed for Everton.
It leaves new manager Vladimir Ivic with the unenviable task of trying to get his squad ready for the Championship without any of his star players.
He can expect to lose a number of those star players on a permanent basis too, with Deulofeu and Pereyra almost certain to depart Vicarage Road this transfer window.
This will be a difficult opening game for Watford; the fact that Middlesbrough have been absolutely shocking for two seasons is irrelevant.
Boro are used to playing at Championship level and, with Neil Warnock at the helm, they will make life very awkward for a side that has very little time to prepare for life in the second tier.
Watford lack players with Championship experience and their squad could take some time adjusting before they find their feet in the division.
The signing of Glenn Murray is a shrewd bit of business and he will add plenty of experience, but he is 36 and can’t be relied upon week in, week out.
Middlesbrough’s forwards, therefore, represent a more stable choice for finding the back of the net on Friday for the simple reason that they are up to speed.
Ashley Fletcher recorded his best scoring season last year with 11 league goals and he will look to build on that at the start of the new season.
He scored three times in eight games under Neil Warnock and will look to improve on that record in the early days of the new season.
What better way to start the season than by scoring away from home on its opening night?
If the above two bets are correct, then it stands to reason that Watford will also score on Friday night.
They scored in six of their nine Premier League games after the restart while Middlesbrough managed only two clean sheets in their rescheduled games.
Both clubs’ past form suggests that Middlesbrough are incapable of keeping a clean sheet, while Watford are more than capable of finding the back of the net themselves.
They may have lost a host of talismanic forwards, but the return of Luis Suarez from an excellent loan spell at Zaragoza, coupled with the arrivals of Glenn Murray and Stipe Perica over the summer, should bolster their ranks upfront.
Watford v Middlesbrough betting tips
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