West Ham v Watford: Match preview and predicted line-ups

West Ham and Watford will be looking to improve upon indifferent starts to the season when they face each other at the London Stadium this Saturday. The two clubs won just one league game between them before the international break, though both were handed difficult starts to the season including games against Chelsea and Arsenal.

The Hammers dispatched the Hornets 3-1 when they met for the last time at Upton Park in February, though the visitors did record a win over their Saturday opponents at Vicarage Road last October. Both teams will view this game as a realistic chance to pick up three points and create some positive momentum.

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West Ham grovelled to a 1-0 win over Bournemouth in their first league game at the Olympic Park earlier in August, but their performance was far from convincing. The Hammers were comprehensively outplayed in the first half of their trip to Manchester City, but a change of shape by Slaven Bilic at half time saw them battle back bravely in a 3-1 defeat. Their Europa League exit to Astra Giurgiu is another black make against them, though key players are returning to the fold.

 

A trip to Southampton and home games against Chelsea and Arsenal was always going to be tough start to Watford, but one point from three games does not necessarily reflect their performance levels. A point at St Mary’s was commendable and they led Chelsea until the latter stages of that game before conceding two late goals. They were outclassed by Arsenal in the first 45 minutes at Vicarage Road last time out but, like West Ham away at City, improved in the second period after switching to a flat back four.

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Predicted Line-ups

West Ham starting XI                                                                               Watford starting XI

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Injuries and Suspensions

West Ham have more injuries than any other Premier League club (eight), but could welcome back some important faces this Saturday. Sofiane Feghouli, Havard Nordtveit and Winston Reid should all make returns. Simone Zaza could make his Hammers debut following his loan from Juventus, while Dimitri Payet played for France and could make his first Premier League start of the season. Andre Ayew, Diafra Sakho, Andy Carroll and Aaron Cresswell remain long-term absentees. Watford are sweating on the fitness of defender Craig Cathcart who is a doubt with a groin strain, while Bric Dje Djedje is also touch and go. New signing Roberto Pereyra could make his first Watford start.

 

Conclusion

This promises to be a tight encounter that could well be decided by the odd goal. West Ham have struggled to reproduce the vibrant, attacking football of last season but the returning Payet and Manuel Lanzini are major boosts. Walter Mazzarri spent much of pre-season drilling his new charges to master a 3-4-1-2, and it looked as if they were settling into the system well. Arsenal’s fluidity, pace and movement caused their back three all kinds of difficulty though and it will be interesting to see if Watford continue with a back three. There is bound to be some anxiety in the stadium given West Ham’s stuttering start, and visiting the Olympic stadium will energise all visiting teams this season. We had this one down as a score draw, but Payet and his set-piece delivery could be enough to swing the game in West Ham’s favour.

Verdict: Home Win

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