Stamford Bridge, London
Saturday, 26th December; 1500 GMT
While the rest of the leagues around Europe enjoy a break, Englanda s festive season fixtures kick off with these Boxing Day matches. Watford and its loyal contingent of supporters will make the short 33-mile journey southeast into west London as their beloved team takes on a beleaguered Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge.
While all the focus this season has been on how well Leicester City are doing, the Hornets have quietly gone about their business and managed to sneak into the top half of the table. They come into this one on a run of 4 wins, scoring 9 goals in the process while letting in only 2. Led by the outstanding Odion Ighalo upfront, Watford have been the form team in the past few weeks. They will be confident coming to Stamford Bridge not only because of their form, but also because of their opponentsa recent poor run.
This will be the second league game in a row at Stamford Bridge after Jose Mourinho was sacked. There was a vitriolic atmosphere towards the players during the last match, with fans mostly blaming them for their beloved managera s misfortunes. Even though it was an out-of-form Sunderland team, the players needed that win more than ever. Although there are still some issues in defence to be sorted out, it was a much better overall performance compared to the previous few weeks.
Team news and tactics
New man in charge Guus Hiddink does not have many injury concerns to begin his second spell in charge of the Blues. Last weeka s absentee Eden Hazard has trained the whole week and could be expected to start. Falcao is the only one definitely missing from this match.
Mourinhoa s favoured system was a 4-2-3-1 formation and by all means it looks like it will continue to be followed. With a crucial away match against Manchester United to follow in 2 days, there could be a lot of rotation expected in the starting eleven. Ramires could start along side Nemanja Matic in the middle of the pitch while Cesc Fabregas could be expected to move further ahead in midfield. Last weeka s goalscorer Pedro could drop to the bench to accommodate Hazard while Willian will support Diego Costa from the wings.
Hiddink was a crowd favourite by the time he left after his first spell in charge and it will be interesting to see the reception he gets from the crowd. Whether the a Jose Mourinhoa chants will continue is a question only time can answer but all fans will go home happy if they bag all three points on Saturday.
Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Courtois (GK), Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma, Ivanovic; Matic, Ramires; Hazard, Fabregas, Willian;Costa
Quique Sanchez Flores has a few availability concerns ahead of this match. Last weekenda s form player Nathan Ake is going to sit the match out because of the terms of his loan deal. Tommie Hoban (groin) and Joel Ekstrand (knee) will definitely miss the match through injury.
Watford will be expected to line up in a style similar to Chelseaa s with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ben Watson and Etienne Capoue will sit in front of the defence while allowing the full backs to run the flanks. Up front, the in-form duo of Troy Deeney and Ighalo will look to terrorise an already shaken up defence. The latter has now scored 12 league goals out of Watforda s total of 21 so far this season. Deeney and him have an almost telepathic connection and it seems to be clicking at the perfect time for the Hornets.
Flores, along with Claudio Ranieri, has been one of the managers of the season so far. While the majority expected them to suffer through another campaign, their attacking style of play and habit of giant-killing have enthralled everyone. Teams like Leicester and Watford make the Premier League stand out from the rest of the European leagues in terms of its competitiveness.
Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Gomes (GK), Anya, Cathcart, Britos, Nyom; Capoue, Watson; Abdi, Jurado, Deeney; Ighalo
Player to watch out for
Troy Deeney (Watford)
Although Ighalo has been getting all the headlines for Watford this season, the man pulling the strings from midfield has been Deeney. The Englishman has scored 5 goals this season and more importantly provided 4 assists already. What he lacks in pace, he makes up in his quick thinking through balls or dinks over the top of the defence. With him and Ighalo upfront for the Hornets, Terry and Zouma are expected to have a tough afternoon.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in the last 8 matches against Watford in all competitions a winning 7 of them
- Watford have already equalled their points tally from the 2006-07 season
- The 3 goals Chelsea scored last weekend against Sunderland was more than their previous 5 matches combined.
- The last time Watford won four games in a row was in 1987.
Chelsea 1 a 1 Watford
A point will make both managers happy and that is what could be expected from this match. Although Chelsea need a win more than Watford do, the latter have been tough to beat and will look to eke out a result.
Blast from the past