The Premier League returns this weekend following the international break, and Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough will be in action at the Riverside on Sunday as they play host to Walter Mazzarri’s Watford. ‘Boro will be looking to get off the mark on their own patch with their home victory of the season, and of course their first since their return to the Premier League, whilst Watford will be hoping to add to the one away victory they have already this season.
Middlesbrough go into this one looking to end a run of six games in all competitions without a win. Their last and only win in all competitions this season was a 2-1 victory at Sunderland on the second weekend of the season, and since then Karanka’s side have crashed out of the EFL Cup to Championship outfit Fulham and lost three of their last five in the Premier League.
They come off the back of a positive 1-1 draw at West Ham United before the international break, but if they are to get off the mark at home they will need to change their fortunes against the Hornets, the ‘Boro are winless in their last five against Watford (D2, L3). They do have one omen on their side though; the last Premier League meeting between the two sides came back in April 2007, and it was the Teesiders who ran out 4-1 winners at the Riverside, and they could do with a repeat here as they look to pull clear of the bottom three.
Mazzarri’s Watford in comparison are faring slightly better. They will go into the game with confidence having won three of their last five against Sunday’s opposition, and have two league victories to their name so far this season. They have only tasted victory once in their last three games however, a home win over Manchester United, and will be looking to get back into form on the road after slipping to a 2-0 defeat at Burnley in their last away fixture.
Their most recent outing was a firecracker of a match against Bournemouth which ended 2-2, but Mazzarri’s men will be looking to win against a ‘Boro side yet to take three points at home, but will need to be at their best after Middlesbrough pushed Spurs all the way despite eventually going down 2-1 in their last game at the Riverside.
With Middlesbrough having done very well with injuries over the international break, Gaston Ramirez and Cristhian Stuani are both in solid contention to start. Defensively following the draw at West Ham, it is likely that Calum Chambers will keep his place at centre-half alongside Ben Gibson. Adam Forshaw is the favourite to start alongside Maarten de Roon in midfield, whilst Alvaro Negredo is expected to feature as the lone striker.
Watford’s summer signing Isaac Success could make his full debut after recovering from a leg injury against Bournemouth. Miguel Britos returns after a groin problem along with Valon Behrami, with the former likely to miss start on the bench. With Craig Cathcart sidelined, Younes Kaboul is expected to continue in central defence alongside Sebastian Prodl in a 4-3-3 formation.
Troy Deeney is expected to lead the line for Watford once again, particularly given his record against Sunday’s opponents; he has scored in each of his last five games against the ‘Boro.
Middlesbrough have no fresh injury concerns, with Gaston Ramirez and Cristhian Stuani returning unscathed from international duty with Uruguay. Captain Grant Leadbitter, who has seen a lengthy spell on the sidelines following a hernia operation, remains out along with James Husband, who dislocated a shoulder over the summer.
For Watford, Isaac Success’ comeback from a leg problem along with Miguel Britos and Valon Behrami shaking off injuries means their injury problems fortunately remain limited. Only Craig Cathcart and Daryl Janmaat are out.
Middlesbrough’s run of one win in seven has seen them slip into the bottom third of the table in recent weeks, and that may tell when Watford make the long trip to Teeside, but they will be encouraged by a decent late rally against Spurs and a solid point away against West Ham United, but arguably given the Hammers’ form they should have shown more killer instinct.
As good as Watford were when they beat Manchester United at Vicarage Road, they were somewhat lacklustre at Burnley in their last away outing, before a decent performance at home again to Bournemouth. Although they do have an away win to their names this season, it is looking like half form will be the most critical factor in deciding their fate this season once again.
It is difficult to predict a clear-cut winner given how their respective season’s are shaping up, so we’re going for a 1-1 draw.
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