Boxing Day is a special day in the football calendar and this year’s proceedings kicks off with Watford hosting Crystal Palace. This match will mark the return of Sam Allardyce after he replaced Alan Pardew during the week at Selhurst Park. It has been only months since he was removed as England manager after being caught up in the corruption scandal and it will be interesting to see what sort of reaction he receives in the media and at away grounds.
Watford are in a great position to consolidate their position in the Premier League and survive once again with relative comfort. They may have made some questionable decisions in recent years, but their methods are paying off and they deserve huge credit for how they have gone about their business since promotion to the top flight. Troy Deeney is still searching for that elusive 100th Watford goal and he will be hoping that he manages to get that particular monkey off his back before the new year.
The decision to sack Alan Pardew was one that has been on the cards for months, but it was surprising that they decided to do it after back-to-back defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea. Palace played well in both matches and arguably deserved something from at least one of them. Although it seems like Palace have been lining up Sam Allardyce for a number of weeks and they felt this was the right time to act. There is no doubting Allardyce’s track record, but it isn’t great publicity for the club bringing him back into the game so soon after the England debacle. He should get Palace to safety quite comfortably and I guess that is why Steve Parish has opted to appoint him.
Walter Mazzarri’s men are one of the most inconsistent teams in the division and it is difficult to know which team will turn up. Last weekend, they were poor and were deserved losers against Sunderland away from home. However, during the previous week they managed to convincingly beat Everton and deliver a good performance against Manchester City, despite defeat. On their day, they can be very good, but they are yet to show consistency.
Everybody knows about Crystal Palace’s awful form in 2016 and four points from their last four matches wasn’t good enough to keep Alan Pardew in a job. Their performances haven’t been bad, but they have been shipping too many goals and that has resulted in a managerial change. There is a lot to work on for Allardyce and I expect him to be rubbing his hands with glee as he analyses the squad he has available to him.
I wouldn’t expect too many changes from Watford, but Daryl Janmaat could come back into the side at right wing back. Troy Deeney will continue to search for that elusive 100th league goal.
Sam Allardyce won’t be forced into too many changes, but Andros Townsend could get a recall. Jason Puncheon could be moved back into a central role.
Watford Crystal Palace
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Kenedy is back in training and could feature on Boxing Day. Adrian Mariappa, Stefano Okaka and Sebastian Prodl are all doubts. Roberto Pereyra and Brice Dje Djedje will not feature.
Mathieu Flamini is a doubt with a groin strain. Loic Remy, Steve Mandanda, Connor Wickham, James Tomkins and Bakary Sako are all long term injury concerns.
This is a difficult match to predict as there are a lot of unknowns about both teams. Watford remain unpredictable, but they are normally more reliable at home. That said, Crystal Palace will be coming into this match with positive momentum after the decision to appoint Sam Allardyce. The players will be keen to impress him at the first opportunity and for that reason I think Palace will take the three points on Boxing Day. It won’t be an easy job for Allardyce, but I do expect him to get off to the best possible start.