The relegation battle in the Premier League is heating up as Watford travel to the London Stadium to take on West Ham United.
The 2019/20 Premier has headed into the final three fixtures of the campaign, and the race at the two ends of the table is heating up. With Liverpool been crowned as champions and Manchester City named the runners up two of the top four are still up for grabs. At the other end, Norwich City are the only team that have been officially relegated, with two of the bottom three to be decided.
To avoid being one of the three teams to be relegated, Watford will take on fellow strugglers, West Ham on Friday. The Hammers sit 16th thanks to their goal difference which has kept them above 17th-placed Watford. They have won just nine games all season, two of which have come post lockdown.
Prior to the start of the season, after West Ham’s business in the transfer window, they were tipped to finish in the top 10, and even challenge for a Europa League finish. Fair to say this has not translated on the pitch. Their last outing came against Norwich, on the weekend where Michail Antonio’s four unanswered goals officially sent Norwich to the Championship.
Watford, on the other hand, are on the third manager of the season. However, they are responsible for one of the most iconic performances of the season, the 3-0 win that ended Liverpool’s unbeaten run. They were able to finish both of their last two games against Norwich and Newcastle United with 2-1 victories, coming back from behind on both occasions.
The reverse fixture between the clubs went in favour of West Ham. Mark Noble opened the scoring for the visitors which was subsequently cancelled out by Andre Gray in the 17th minute. A second-half brace from Sebastien Haller sealed the game for the Hammers. The Hard Tackle now takes a more in-depth look at this game.
Team News & Tactics
West Ham United
West Ham head into the game with zero confirmed injury issues. Robert Snodgrass and Felipe Anderson missed the game against Norwich City due to injuries but both have reportedly returned to training and could be in contention to make the matchday squad for Friday’s match.
We expect an unchanged XI from David Moyes though, with Lukasz Fabianski starting as the goalkeeper in the six-yard box. He will be screened by Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna at the heart of the defence. Aaron Cresswell and Ryan Fredericks are expected to add width from deep.
There are primarily three players in contention for a spot in the double pivot, namely Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek and Mark Noble. We expect Rice and Soucek to make the cut over Noble, who will retain his position in the attacking midfield role, from where he created eight goal-scoring chances against Norwich.
Pablo Fornals has been in and out of the team throughout the season but will start on the left-wing tomorrow, aided by Jarrod Bowen who will assume responsibility on the right. Michail Antonio scored four goals in the last game and will continue leading the line for the Hammers.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Noble, Fornals; Antonio
Unlike their opponents, Watford have three injuries to cater to. Isaac Success, Gerard Deulofeu and Daryl Janmaat will continue to miss out and are unlikely to return this season.
Troy Deeney has an issue with his knee but will continue as the sole striker on Friday after firing his team towards victory on the weekend with the help of his two penalties. Danny Welbeck and Ismaila Sarr will supplement him in attack from the left and right-wing respectively.
Abdoulaye Doucoure will play as the attacking midfielder but will be given the role of dropping deep to add grit to the double pivot of Will Hughes and Etienne Capoue. Nathaniel Chalobah is in contention to start as well but will have to see the game through from the bench.
Adam Masina and Kiko Femenia will start as the full-backs on the left and right sides respectively. They will be flanking the centre-back duo of Craig Dawson and Christian Kabasele. Ben Foster will hold the fort for Nigel Pearson’s men between the posts.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Foster; Femenia, Dawson, Kabasele, Masina; Hughes, Capoue; Sarr, Doucoure, Welbeck; Deeney
- West Ham and Watford have faced each other 13 times in the Premier League. West Ham have won six games, Watford five and two games have ended in draws.
- Of the last five meetings, West Ham have come out on top with three wins while Watford have won twice.
- The last draw these two teams played out was in February 2017, with the game ending 1-1.
- Troy Deeney has three goals in seven games against West Ham.
- Friday’s match would be the first meeting between David Moyes and Nigel Pearson.
Player to watch
Michail Antonio came up extremely clutch last week as he put four past Norwich City to rub salt in their wounds as they were sent back to the Championship just after one season. The Englishman doubled his tally for the season and now has eight goals in 21 league games for the Hammers.
On Friday, he will face a Watford side that are known for their inability to stick to their defensive positions. This will come in handy for Antonio who continually likes to drift into wide spaces to find room before moving in. Craig Dawson and Christian Kabasele will have to do a lot to keep the 30-year-old quiet.
West Ham United 3-2 Watford
Both teams will go into the game extra-motivated to get one over the other in order to avoid relegation. Both West Ham and Watford have been poor defensively and have been overly reliant on their attack to deliver the goods. However, we expect West Ham to scratch out a result.
This could happen because of Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen who switch positions throughout the game, and it could bamboozle an ill-disciplined Watford defence. The Hornets will have to replicate their performance against Liverpool and Leicester City if they want to bolster their chances of staying up.