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WATFORD F.C

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MANCHESTER CITY F.C

Vicarage Road

2nd January, 17:30 GMT

High-flying Watford host Premier League title hopefuls Manchester City at the Vicarage Road on Saturday, hoping to claim their first big scalp in front of the home supporters

Quique Flores’ side have yet to beat a top 4 team at home this season, having lost previously to Arsenal FC, and more recently, Tottenham Hotspur. The Hornets do, however, have an excellent opportunity to turn that around when they take on an unpredictable Manchester City side who will continue to be without their influential captain Vincent Kompany.

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, on the other hand, will be aware of Arsenal FC’s growing stature and confidence, and with the Gunners three points ahead of his team, the Chilean will want to ensure that there are no slip ups in the second half of the campaign.

Team News and Tactics

Watford

On-loan Chelsea FC youngster Nathan Ak will begin his three-match suspension for the red card he received against Tottenham Hotspur, and will consequently be unavailable for selection in Saturday’s clash against Manchester City. As such, Qique Flores is likely to name the same XI that started against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, when the Netherlands U21 international was ineligible to face his parent club.

With no other serious injuries to speak of, the Watford will likely stick to their tried and tested 4-4-2 formation, with the devastatingly effective combination of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo continuing their partnership up front. Up against a defender in Eliaquim Mangala who relishes a physical battle, the duo will have to be more crafty in terms of their movement to expose the Frenchman’s defensive flaws, as also that of his partner NicolA?s Otamendi.

From a defensive point of view, City’s attacking midfielders have enough quality to cause problems for the Watford defence, and central midfielders tienne Capoue and Ben Watson will have a big role to play in terms of closing down space that the likes of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne like to operate in.

As with the majority of the other teams in the league, Watford will look to play on the break against City, which means that it is vital they score first, or at least not concede early. Pellegrini’s men are among the best in the league at exploiting gaps in the final third, and the pace of Raheem Sterling and Sergio AgA?ero can be lethal on the break if Watford are drawn out in a bid to get level.

Possible starting line-up (4-4-2): Gomes; Nyom, Cathcart, Britos, Holebas; Abdi, Watson, Capoue, Jurado; Deeney (C), Ighalo

Manchester City

Manuel Pellegrini will be without captain Vincent Kompany, who continues to recover from a recurrence of the calf injury that had ruled him out since the beginning of November. Attacking midfielder Samir Nasri (hamstring) remains a long-term absentee, while there is good news for Manchester City in the return of England international Fabian Delph as well as Brazilian Fernando.

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The Citizens failed to find the back of the net against Leicester City in their previous game — their third goalless draw of the season. Striker Sergio AgA?ero has struggled for form and fitness of late, while club-record signing Kevin De Bruyne has a markedly worse record away from home than at the Etihad. In fact, the Citizens have been poor away from home this season, and need to turn it around soon with title rivals Arsenal FC gathering momentum.

Pellegrini will likely continue with his 4-2-3-1 formation, with the expensively assembled attacking triumvirate of Sterling, David Silva and De Bruyne operating behind AgA?ero, while Yaya Tour and Fernandinho occupy the two central midfield roles.

The City defence — particularly Otamendi and Mangala — will have to be wary of direct balls over the top of midfield to Deeney, who has a very clever partner in Ighalo to capitalise on any flick-ons. In such instances, Fernandinho will have to help out his centre-backs and plug any holes that either of the two might leave when leaving their position to close down Watford’s top scorer.

Possible starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Hart; Sagna, Otamendi, Mangala, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Tour ; De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling; AgA?ero

Match Facts

  • Manchester City have drawn just 3 games of their first 19 this season — all have been 0-0 draws away from home (Manchester United, Aston Villa, Leicester City)
  • Odion Ighalo became the first Watford player in history to net in six consecutive Premier League games with his strike against Tottenham Hotspur
  • Manchester City are without a win in their last six Premier League away games (D3 L3)
  • Watford are yet to register a win against a top four side in the Premier League this season, losing their previous game against City 2-0 at the end of August
  • Manchester City haven’t lost to Watford in their previous 8 games (W6 D2)

Player to watch out for

Odion Ighalo

Watford v Liverpool

The Nigerian has already found the back of the net 14 times in the first half of the season, and has been scoring in six successive Premier League games. Even when Ighalo appears to be having a poor game, the 26-year-old has the confidence and the finishing ability to capitalise on any opportunity he gets in and around the box.

His partnership with captain Troy Deeney has been sensational this season, and the duo will once again be a major threat when Manchester City visit Vicarage Road. With 30 goals in a hugely successful 2015 — more than any other player in the English leagues — Odion Ighalo is the man to watch in this game on Saturday.

Prediction

Watford 1 – 2 Manchester City

Although Watford have been very impressive this season, Manchester City will be cognizant of the fact that they need to put together a run of positive results to get an edge in what promises to be a very interesting Premier League title race. As such, Pellegrini will make sure his team is fully motivated and hungry to start 2016 on the right note. A close, hard-fought win for the Citizens is on the cards in Saturday’s evening kick-off.

Blast from the past