Chelsea will hope to pounce on Tottenham’s defeat to go up to third on the Premier League table when they host Watford at Stamford Bridge on Sunday
The top four race continues to produce more twists, with nine-man Tottenham Hotspur slumping to a 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday. Chelsea will now have the opportunity to gain advantage in the topsy turvy race when they welcome Watford to Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
Chelsea have themselves been culpable of letting go of the chances they have been given in recent weeks, as have every other side in the top four race. The Blues are now three games without a win in the Premier League, with the latest such result coming in the form of a 1-1 draw against Manchester United last week.
Their most recent game also saw them failing to be victorious, as they held Eintracht Frankfurt to a 1-1 draw, although the result saw them being in a better position in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals. Watford, on the other hand, have been on a bit of a slide themselves.
The Hornets, who will be playing the FA Cup final against Manchester City later this month, have only managed to win two of their last seven Premier League games. This run of results have seen them drop down to 10th on the Premier League table and with no chance of finishing 7th, meaning their only hope of a Europa League qualifier is by winning the FA Cup.
The reverse fixture, played at Vicarage Road back in December last year, saw Chelsea narrowly beating Watford 2-1, thanks to an Eden Hazard brace. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Maurizio Sarri does not have any fresh injury concerns from Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, with only three first-team players continuing to remain on the treatment table. Antonio Rudiger (knee) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (achilles) have seen their campaigns being brought to a premature halt.
Gary Cahill also remains unavailable due to a short-term achilles complaint, but he would not have been in contention anyway. In addition to the aforementioned trio, Sarri is sweating over the fitness of Willian, who is struggling with a knock.
With the Brazilian being an important part of the Europa League campaign, chances are Sarri will not risk the winger on Sunday and leave him on the bench till it’s absolutely necessary to introduce him. In Willian’s place, Eden Hazard is expected to come into the side, in what could be the final home league game for the Belgian.
Joining Hazard in the Chelsea attacking unit, should be Pedro and Gonzalo Higuain, with the latter replacing fellow struggling striker Olivier Giroud. In the middle of the park, Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be given a breather ahead of the key return leg fixture against Eintracht Frankfurt next week.
In his place, Ross Barkley will hope to be handed a place in the starting lineup to face Watford, with Jorginho and N’Golo Kante expected to hold on to their spots. At the back, Emerson Palmieri’s struggles in the European clash should mean Marcos Alonso will be recalled in the left-back slot.
The remaining four spots in the side are unlikely to see any shuffles, with Rudiger’s absence forcing Sarri to field David Luiz and Andreas Christensen at the heart of the Chelsea defence, while Cesar Azpilicueta remains a certain starter on the right flank. Behind the defence, there is no looking past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Higuain, Hazard
Javi Gracia does not have many pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Chelsea. On Sunday, the Watford boss will be without just two first-team players, Sebastian Prodl (knee) and Domingos Quina (shoulder) serving time on the sidelines.
The absence of Prodl does not hurt much, with Craig Cathcart and Adrian Mariappa being nailed on as the two central defenders. Flanking the duo, should be Jose Holebas and Kiko Femenia, with the latter being preferred ahead of Daryl Janmaat for the right-back role.
Meanwhile, Gracia ought to prefer his usual 4-2-2-2 formation once again, with Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes attacking the half spaces while creating overloads in the middle of the park and the final third, depending on the situation of the game.
The central midfield double pivot is expected to be manned by Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue, with the duo looking to disrupt Jorginho’s creative flow. Doucoure will also be a factor in the final third, where he tends to arrive into dangerous positions to make himself a target man.
Upfront, the unusual, but effective strike partnership of Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu ought to resume, with the Spaniard using his nimble footwork to torment Marcos Alonso and David Luiz. Deeney, on the other hand, will be the imposing figure inside the box.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Foster; Femenia, Cathcart, Mariappa, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Hughes, Pereyra; Deulofeu, Deeney
1. Watford Asian Handicap + 1.5 @ 1.700
2. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.80
3. Eden Hazard to score anytime @ 1.83
1. Full Time Result – Draw or Watford @ 3.00
- Chelsea are unbeaten in 11 home matches against Watford in all competitions (W7 D4) since a 1-5 defeat on the final day of the 1985-86 season.
- Chelsea have surprisingly won only four of their 16 league matches against sides currently in the top half of the table (D5, L7).
- Since their return to the Premier League in 2015, Watford have scored more Premier League goals against Chelsea than they have versus any other side (13). They have also scored more goals at Stamford Bridge (7) than any other visiting side over the last four seasons.
- Watford have lost 14 consecutive Premier League away fixtures against the ‘Big Six’ sides, by an aggregate score of 42-9.
- Chelsea are winless in three Premier League games – they last went four without a win in May 2016, under Guus Hiddink.
Team News & Tactics
With speculation surrounding his Chelsea future growing like wildfire, chances are Eden Hazard could be playing a Premier League game for the Blues at Stamford Bridge for the very last time on Sunday. If so, one can expect the Belgian to be in the right frame of mind to bow out on a high.
What boosts Hazard’s case is that fact that each of his six Premier League goals in 2019 have come at the Bridge, while the Chelsea talisman has also scored three goals in his last three top-flight outings against Watford.
All signs point towards Eden Hazard running riot against Watford to bring the curtains down at Stamford Bridge, as far as Premier League football is concerned. One of the last chances for Chelsea fans to savour their star attacker ahead of a potential move to Real Madrid this summer.
Chelsea 2-1 Watford
A game that pits two sides that have been far from their best in recent weeks. Both Chelsea and Watford have failed to win their last three games, and ahead of a match that is known to produce goals, one can expect fireworks in the final Premier League game at Stamford Bridge this season.
Chelsea though, tend to end on a high at the Bridge, with their last defeat at home in the final game of the season coming back in 2002. With Watford struggling to impose themselves lately, possibly as means of conserving their best for the FA Cup final, a Chelsea win looks likely.
Gerard Deulofeu and Eden Hazard should be the protagonists on the day, albeit with the latter prevailing to hand Chelsea another narrow win over the Hornets. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Maurizio Sarri & co. in a result that sends the Blues up to third on the Premier League table.