Saturday, 5.30pm, BT Sport 1
After a dream start to Nigel Pearson’s reign at the club, Watford have suffered successive damaging defeats which leaves them sitting in 19th place, two points off safety.
Watford were a little unfortunate to lose to fellow strugglers Aston Villa as they had the better chances and were hit with the sucker punch of a Tyrone Mings goal in the 95th minute.
However, Saturday’s 3-2 defeat was of the careless variety and may leave a psychological mark. Craig Cathcart was no match for the taller and more powerful Yerry Mina as Watford’s two-goal advantage was wiped out in the space of three minutes and two Everton corners.
Fabian Delph’s ill-advised lunge left Everton down to ten men for the last 20 minutes and gifted Watford a huge opportunity to gain a crucial win.
Instead, Watford overcommitted to a 90th minute attacking set-piece, Everton cleared and a misplaced Adam Masina header suddenly left Everton with a huge counter-attacking opportunity which Theo Walcott duly converted.
Ismaila Sarr didn’t play in either of Watford’s last two defeats with a hamstring injury and his absence has been keenly felt. His pace, power and dribbling ability make the 21-year-old stand out as a player of significant promise.
He caught the eye in Rennes’ defeat to Arsenal in the Europa League last season and was a key cog in Ivory Coast’s run to the final in last Summer’s African Nations Cup. Sarr is due to return soon but recent reports indicate he may not be risked for this weekend and Robert Peyeyra will again deputise.
Brighton’s dramatic comeback against West Ham will have boosted their players’ confidence but will not have assuaged concerns about a wretched run which has seen only one win in ten games. Graham Potter is undoubtedly a coach of great promise but the suspicion remains that a further overhaul of the midfield and forwards is required in order to implement his favoured possession-based style of the play.
Although he scored the equaliser against West Ham, Glenn Murray playing the full 90 minutes and summer signing Neal Maupay playing exactly 0 minutes can’t have been what Brighton owner Tony Bloom envisaged when he signed the French striker for 20 million pounds.
Maupay may have lost confidence after a promising start to his Premier League career but it’s crucial he rediscovers form as relying on Murray as Brighton’s primary number nine is a recipe for relegation.
If Sarr is fit and starts the game, I would recommend backing Watford at 5/2 or better but with doubts about his fitness, I’ll stay away from tipping any of the match prices.
Not many stats to back this up but I would expect both managers to focus much of their week of training on defending after conceding three goals each.
Also, this is a very important game which neither team will feel they can afford to lose so that could lend itself to caution and the unders to click.
This looks worth a speculative punt here with Watford’s recent struggles defending set pieces.
The Brighton centre half also takes the odd set-piece so we should get a run for our money here at a decent price.
*All odds correct at time of publication