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