Chelsea will be desperate to return to winning ways in the Premier League when they take on Watford at Vicarage Road on Wednesday.

The festive period is upon us, and the matches will be coming thick and fast in December. Indeed, Gameweek 14 of the 2021/22 Premier League season begins just a couple of days after the end of the previous round of fixtures. On Wednesday, as many as six matches will be on show, with one of the earlier games featuring Chelsea, who will lock horns with Watford at Vicarage Road.

The environment at Watford has been typically chaotic this season, with the Hornets already up to their second manager of the campaign, after replacing Xisco Munoz with Claudio Ranieri. The Italian tactician has overseen an inconsistent run of form thus far, with wins over Everton and Manchester United being memorable, although his men have also suffered some heavy defeats.

On the other hand, Chelsea remain perched atop the Premier League table, although their lead at the summit has been reducing in the last couple of rounds of fixtures. The Blues have been held to back-to-back 1-1 draws by Burnley and Manchester United, which has helped Manchester City and Liverpool bridge the gap to them. As a result, only two points separate the top three teams in the top-flight.

Chelsea eked out a narrow 2-1 win the last time they locked horns with Watford, with Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic on target, while Gerard Deulofeu struck for the Hornets. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Watford

Claudio Ranieri has several pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Chelsea. On Wednesday, the Watford manager could be bereft of the services of as many as ten first-team players.

The fitness of Emmanuel Dennis remains a major source of concern for Ranieri, with the Watford talisman struggling with an ankle injury he sustained against Leicester City this past weekend. The Nigerian attacker faces a late fitness test to determine his availability.

Apart from Dennis, the Watford manager is also sweating over the fitness of Juraj Kucka. At the same time, the likes of Ben Foster (groin), Peter Etebo (hamstring), Ken Sema (knee), Francisco Sierralta Carvallo (thigh), Kwadwo Baah (ankle), Nicolas N’Koulou (hamstring) and Ismaila Sarr (knee) remain on the sidelines.

In Foster’s absence, Daniel Bachmann will take his place in goal for Watford, who will line up in a 4-3-3 formation against Chelsea. In front of Bachmann, Craig Cathcart and William Troost-Ekong will form the central defensive partnership, hoping to keep a check on the dangerous Romelu Lukaku. Jeremy Ngakia and Danny Rose will be the two full-backs.

Up ahead in midfield, Moussa Sissoko will have the onus on him to keep things tight and keep a lid on Mason Mount’s output. The Frenchman will receive defensive support from Ozan Tufan and Tom Cleverley, with the duo also providing the forward thrust from the middle of the park.

As for the attacking unit, the absence of Dennis could hurt, but it looks like the Watford star will be able to feature off the bench later in the game. So, the bulk of the goalscoring responsibility will rest with the in-form Joshua King, with Joao Pedro and Cucho Hernandez starting alongside him in the final third.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bachmann; Ngakia, Cathcart, Troost-Ekong, Rose; Cleverley, Sissoko, Tufan; Hernandez, Pedro, King

Chelsea

Like his counterpart in the Watford dugout, Thomas Tuchel has several new fitness issues to deal with ahead of the short trip to Vicarage Road. On Wednesday, the Chelsea manager might have to make do without as many as six first-team players.

Ben Chilwell (knee), Mateo Kovacic (hamstring) and N’Golo Kante (knee) are all certain to miss out against Watford. In addition, Tuchel has major concerns over the possible availability of Reece James, Jorginho and Timo Werner, with the trio recovering from knocks and requiring late fitness tests to determine whether they will be able to feature for Chelsea.

Tuchel might also take the Watford game as an opportunity to rest a few players, with James likely to be on the bench even if he is passed fit. In his stead, captain Cesar Azpilicueta should return and start as the right wing-back. However, if available, Jorginho should be stationed in the middle of the park, fresh off being named in the Ballon d’Or top three.

The Italian international will likely have Ruben Loftus-Cheek for company in the double pivot again, with Marcos Alonso and Azpilicueta completing Chelsea’s second line of press. Up ahead in attack, Romelu Lukaku will make his first start since completely recovering from an ankle injury.

Lukaku will lead the line for Chelsea against Watford, with Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic playing off him. At the back, Thiago Silva could be due a rest, which will allow Andreas Christensen to return to the side, starting alongside Trevoh Chalobah and Antonio Rudiger in the central defensive partnership. Finally, Edouard Mendy is a certainty between the sticks.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Chalobah, Christensen, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Alonso; Mount, Pulisic; Lukaku

Key Stats

  • Watford have lost seven of their last eight Premier League meetings with Chelsea, winning the other 4-1 in February 2018. The Hornets have conceded 21 goals in these eight games (2.6 per game).
  • Watford have lost four of their six Premier League matches under Claudio Ranieri. Xisco Munoz was sacked after four defeats in their opening seven league fixtures.
  • Chelsea have been beaten in just one of their 13 Premier League fixtures this term, conceding a league-low five goals. The Blues have lost only two of their 21 games on the road in all competitions under Thomas Tuchel, keeping 13 clean sheets.
  • Watford have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 23 Premier League matches, the longest current run of any team, and have shipped 45 goals in these games since a 3-0 win over Liverpool in February 2020.
  • Emmanuel Dennis has emulated Eric Cantona, Jurgen Klinsmann, Arjen Robben, Andrey Arshavin and Bruno Fernandes by becoming just the sixth player to reach five goals and five assists in 12 or fewer Premier League appearances. Dennis has scored three and set up four of Watford’s last nine league goals.

Player to Watch

Romelu Lukaku

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Romelu Lukaku was delighted when he sealed his return to Chelsea, claiming he had unfinished business at the club. Thus far in his second coming, though, the Belgian attacking powerhouse is yet to get going completely, with his recent ankle injury further halting his progress at Stamford Bridge.

Now set to make his first start for Chelsea since recovering from his fitness issue, Lukaku will be raring to go and show he has not missed a step on his return trail. A big game for the 28-year-old, this.

Prediction

Watford 1-3 Chelsea

Chelsea might have struggled to score a glut of goals in their last two Premier League games, but a porous Watford defence could be exactly what they need to get going again. The Hornets looked vulnerable even when they beat Everton and Manchester United, and the Blues will sniff their opportunity.

Thomas Tuchel’s men have won each of their last four Premier League away games by an aggregate score of 10-0, and they look set to add to this formidable record. The only blemish will come in the form of a Watford goal, perhaps from Joshua King, which will rob Edouard Mendy of a clean sheet. Otherwise, this should be a straightforward game for Chelsea, who will grab a 3-1 win here.

One Response to “Watford vs Chelsea Preview: Probable Lineups, Prediction, Tactics, Team News & Key Stats”

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  1. Tosin says:

    Thanks for the information

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