Watford and Middlesbrough clash at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon with both teams desperately in need of three points.
After making a promising start to the season The Hornets have started to slide down the table after two months of poor results and, whilst they remain seven points clear of the relegation zone, Walter Mazzari will be keen to stop the rot. Middlesbrough, meanwhile, have been able to stay clear of the drop zone under the guidance of Aitor Karanka but are only four points clear of Sunderland who lie eighteenth in the table. The Spaniard will know that his team need to keep accumulating points to keep their head above the water.
Watford have experienced an alarming dip in form in recent months and have dropped down to 14th in the table having been as high as eighth at the start of December. The Hornets have won just once in their last eight Premier League fixtures and have only kept one clean sheet in their previous eleven contests. However, they did pick up a comfortable win against Burton Albion last weekend in the FA Cup and Walter Mazzari will be hoping that his players can replicate their winning performance in the Premier League.
Newly promoted Middlesbrough have made a solid start to the season and Aitor Karanka has managed to keep his side clear of the relegation zone. The Boro have won just two of their last ten Premier League fixtures but have a tendency to pick up points on home soil and are unbeaten in their last four fixtures across all competitions. However, on the road Aitor Karanka’s team have been relatively ineffective having picked up just one point from their last five away contests.
Watford have been plagued with injuries throughout the season but could be boosted by the return of three first team players when they host Middlesbrough on Saturday. Stefano Okaka, who scored twice in his last appearance against Everton, Daryl Janmaat and Valon Behrami are all expected to be considered fit enough to play some part in the fixture at Vicarage Road and will provide Walter Mazzari’s side with a much-needed lift. Nordin Amrabat and Isaac Success are both unlikely to feature until late February whilst Adlene Guedioura is on international duty participating in the African Cup of Nations.
Aitor Karanka will have the opportunity to shuffle his pack for the trip to London. Gaston Ramirez and Victor Valdes, both of whom have played key roles in Middlesbrough’s success this campaign, are set to return from brief injury layoffs. However, Antonio Barragan and Viktor Fisher remain side-lined and Daniel Ayala will miss the game through suspension after he was sent off in Boro’s FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday last weekend.
Watford Predicted Starting XI
Middlesbrough Predicted Starting XI
Gaston Ramirez: The attack-minded Uruguayan is set to return to the Middlesbrough starting line-up on Saturday after missing last weekend’s FA Cup victory with a slight knock. Ramirez has been one of The Boro’s outstanding performers this campaign with his innovation and creativity in the final third have proven to be invaluable for team that have struggled to score goals. He will be the main offensive outlet for Aitor Karanka’s side at Vicarage Road and he will need to be on the top of his game if Middlesbrough are to head home with a positive result.
Just two points separates these two teams and both sets of supporters will be desperately hopping that their side can pick up a victory to ease their fears of relegation. Watford have suffered an alarming slump in recent months but will be boosted by the return of three key players whilst Middlesbrough have struggled to pick up points on the road. A narrow, nervy, edgy home victory for The Hornets.
Predicted Score: Watford 2, Middlesbrough 1
Tottenham Hotspur vs Bournemouth: Premier League match preview, likely line-ups and score prediction
Tottenham Hotspur head into tomorrow’s clash with struggling Bournemouth still searching for their first Premier League victory at Wembley Stadium. Much as been made about Spurs’ hoodoo at the national stadium, where they are temporarily based while construction continues on their new ground.
Mauricio Pochettino’s charges have dropped more points at ‘home’ so far this season than in the entirety of the last campaign. However, they take on a Bournemouth outfit that have collected four points and are above only Crystal Palace in the league standings.
Despite their difficulties at Wembley, Tottenham are unbeaten in the top-flight since August and sit third in the table with 14 points from seven matches. Their demolition of Huddersfield Town before the international break, in which the in-form Harry Kane netted a brace, highlighted their ability to crush opponents.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe will be acutely aware of the task facing his side. The Cherries have a terrible record against Spurs since being promoted to the Premier League and have yet to gain a single point on their travels this term.
Pochettino has no fresh injury concerns and could be boosted by the return of Mousa Dembele, who has recovered from a foot problem. Victor Wanyama is still sidelined with a knee injury, though. Harry Winks, who impressed on his England debut, is set to retain his place in the starting XI. Long-term absentees Danny Rose and Erik Lamela are several weeks away from first team action.
Howe’s line-up will depend on whether striker Joshua King passes a fitness test after suffering a tight hamstring for Norway. Ryan Fraser and Brad Smith are both poised to miss out, after suffering knocks during the international break. Callum Wilson has been continuing his recuperation by getting minutes under his belt for the Under-23s.
Match prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Bournemouth
Spurs have thrashed Bournemouth in the two fixtures between the clubs at White Hart Lane – and a change of venue is unlikely to bring the Cherries better fortune. If at their best, Howe’s side can at least give Tottenham something to think about and prey on the anxiety they have experienced at Wembley. However, with no away form to speak of, Spurs look set to be too strong.
Liverpool vs Manchester United: Premier League match preview, likely line-ups and score prediction
The two most successful clubs in the history of English football will resume hostilities tomorrow, when Liverpool welcome Manchester United to Anfield. It is a mouth-watering return to the Premier League following the international break, which sees Jose Mourinho’s side put their unbeaten start to the season on the line. The atmosphere is sure to be electric for Saturday’s early kick-off and victory for the hosts would bring them to within four points of their fierce rivals.
With only one win from their past four top-flight outings, Liverpool’s form has stalled somewhat after a bright start. Scoring goals has not been a problem for Jurgen Klopp’s men – but in contrast, no club in the top half has shipped more. It is these defensive shortcomings which have been to blame for too many dropped points.
United meanwhile, have been mightily impressive, taking 19 points from 21. For all their attacking flair, they have also been watertight in defence, with the only goals they have conceded coming in the 2-2 draw away to Stoke City.
Klopp has been left reeling from the news that key player Sadio Mane has been ruled out from up to two months after injuring his hamstring during the international break, which means Daniel Sturridge may keep his place in attack. Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne are edging towards a return, although no date has yet been set.
United have selection problems of their own and will be without Marouane Fellaini, who suffered damage to his knee while playing for Belgium. Paul Pogba, Phil Jones, Michael Carrick and Marcus Rojo all remain sidelined.
Match prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United
Mourinho is a master tactician whose game-plan will be to keep it tight and frustrate Liverpool. Klopp’s team are more than capable of ruining his approach however, although Mane’s absence is a huge blow. The first goal will be crucial in deciding the outcome.
Everton vs Burnley: Premier League match preview, likely line-ups and score prediction
Everton will look to record just their third Premier League win of the season when a high-flying Burnley take the short trip across the north west to Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon.
Sean Dyche’s side have started the year in impressive fashion, losing just once in their opening six matches, and they’ll provide another stern test for an Everton side that are struggling to grind out results.
Yet Ronald Koeman will hope his side’s comeback victory over Bournemouth last time out can add some inspiration around Merseyside and kick-start a season that hasn’t got going just yet.
Despite spending over £100million during the summer on some well-known names, Everton have found it difficult to convert that into results on the pitch with just two wins from their first six league games.
Consecutive defeats against Chelsea (2-0), Tottenham (3-0) and Manchester United (4-0) had dampened spirits around Goodison somewhat but they secured a much-needed win last week against the Cherries.
Their Europa League adventure hasn’t quite gone to plan either, losing heavily away at Atalanta before being held at home by Cypriot minnows Apollon Limassol to leave them at the bottom of Group E.
The visitors have fared a little better so far this season, only losing the once against West Brom, and they’ve already surprised a few by drawing with Liverpool and Tottenham and seeing off Chelsea.
They’ll arrive on Merseyside with a fine away record too, unbeaten in their first three matches – all three of which ironically were against these top-six contenders – and they’ll want to extend the run.
Ronald Koeman could be without the services of both Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane after the defensive duo missed out on the draw with Apollon Limassol through respective injury problems.
That could see young Mason Holgate drafted into the centre of defence alongside Ashley Williams, with Everton potentially reverting to a four-man defensive system to cater for their lengthy injury list.
There’s little to report for Burnley ahead of Sunday’s clash, although Jonathan Walters could be in contention for a spot on the bench after recovering from an ongoing ligament problem in his ankle.
Match Prediction; Everton 2-1 Burnley
Ronald Koeman will be desperate to see a reaction from his team after their disappointing late set-back against ten-man Apollon on Thursday, and he will want to make it two wins from two in the league.
But it certainly won’t be an easy task against a disciplined Burnley team, who have only conceded five goals all season despite facing a tough run of away games against Premier League title contenders.
Oumar Niasse is in-line for a start after his starring role in the win last weekend and his presence could lift a depleted Everton side, and whilst it won’t be a stroll in the park the hosts should nick a close affair.
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