Tottenham Hotspur and Watford meet for Saturday’s early Premier League kick-off, as the two sides end a congested period of fixtures with their third match in just eight days.
The Hornets travel to White Hart Lane after successive home matches, with the task of disrupting a Spurs side who have an impressive win rate of 86% on their own turf this season.
With just eight games remaining, both clubs are on track to achieve best ever finishes in the competition, currently sitting in 2nd and 10th respectively.
Tottenham have won each of their last five matches in the league, amassing 14 goals in that period, despite being without talisman Harry Kane for the last three. On Wednesday night, Mauricio Pochettino’s men netted three times from the 88th minute to overturn a 1-0 deficit, ensuring the seven-point gap to leaders Chelsea was at least maintained.
Prior to last weekend, Watford had been winless in four, losing three and drawing once, before securing maximum points from the double-header at Vicarage Road. Aside from various injuries and suspensions limiting the squad, this has set the Hornets up well for the trip to North London; on their last, they left the Emirates with the bragging rights.
Spurs have, however, proven a tough opponent for this weekend’s visitors in previous encounters. The two sides have met on seven occasions in the league’s current format, and the Lilywhites are yet to lose, winning all three since Watford’s return to the top-flight in 2015.
Both sides have tinkered with formations this season, experimenting with different combinations of centre-backs, full-backs, and wing-backs. In recent encounters with stronger opponents, Walter Mazzarri has opted for a 4-1-4-1 and is likely to do so again.
Pochettino tends to switch between 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3, with the latter looking more suited on this occasion, particularly if Victor Wanyama returns from a back injury sustained last weekend.
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Spurs’ recent win over Burnley cost them not only the short-term absence of Wanyama, but the loss of Harry Winks for the remainder of the campaign. The 21-year-old joins Erik Lamela, Harry Kane and Danny Rose in the treatment room – the former is also out for the season. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris missed out on Wednesday but is expected to return from illness.
Mazzarri has several injury concerns in his squad and faces a conundrum defensively, following Miguel Britos’ sending off against West Bromwich Albion. The Italian manager has a large squad at his disposal but is also without Younes Kaboul (hamstring) and Sebastian Prodl is a doubt after being replaced with a rib injury on Wednesday.
If Prodl returns, one solution would be to restore Daryl Janmaat to the starting XI and move Craig Cathcart back to his natural central position. If this is not the case, expect Juan Zuniga to be called upon. In more positive news for the Hornets, Valon Behrami should make his comeback after being forced out of the last two matches.
Verdict: Spurs 2-0 Watford
Spurs have really shown their quality at home this season, building on last year’s strong campaign and look set to secure second place in the league.
Despite Watford’s own relative success and recent victories, they have generally been quite unpredictable, which is not a helpful trait when heading to one of the country’s toughest grounds.
Tottenham have proven that they are still a force without Kane, and are yet to lose in his absence. That record and Spurs’ long-standing domination of this fixture look set to continue.