Tottenham Hotspur will travel to Vicarage Road this weekend to lock horns with newly-promoted Watford on Saturday.
Tottenham Hotspur are aiming to kickstart their 2022 in a positive fashion when they take on Watford on Saturday. It is a must-win encounter for the North London giants, who are heading into this game on the back of a rather disappointing 1-1 draw with Southampton in midweek.
The result saw them slip to seventh in the league table, four points below fourth-placed Arsenal. However, with two games in hand, coupled with the fact the Gunners are facing defending champions Manchester City on Sunday, Tottenham still have an opportunity to keep up with the top four places.
Simply a victory on Saturday could momentarily catapult them to fifth place, ahead of West Ham United and Manchester United. It will be enough to put pressure on the Gunners, and to Spurs’ fortune, they are up against one of the worst-performing teams in the division, in the form of Watford.
While Tottenham are unbeaten in the Premier League under Antonio Conte, Watford’s new manager Claudio Ranieri has had to oversee a run of five successive defeats. Their last win came against Manchester United back in November, with the poor run of results now throwing the Hornets back into the relegation dogfight.
Watford are only leading 18th placed Burnley by two points, but the Clarets have a game in hand. So the pressure will be intense on Ranieri as he looks to guide his team back to winning ways. He will be hoping for an upturn of fortunes against a Tottenham side that can be unpredictable, at times, but can also be very efficient in front of goal. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial Premier League match-up this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
• Cleverley available
• Foster back in training
• Femenía and Rose out
All the #WATTOT team news ahead of tomorrow's match at The Vic 👇
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) December 31, 2021
Watford are facing a slew of injury-related issues heading into this contest. Christian Kabasele, Ismaila Sarr, Peter Etebo, Ben Foster, Kwadwo Baah, Nicolas N’Koulou, and Danny Rose are some of the ones to have been ruled out, leaving Claudio Ranieri devoid of too many options at his disposal.
Even Kiko Femenia has been ruled out of Saturday’s encounter, which may force Ranieri to opt for Juraj Kucka as the makeshift deputy. The former AC Milan midfielder is expected to accompany Francisco Sierralta, Craig Cathcart and Adam Masina in the back-four, with Daniel Bachmann, starting in between the sticks.
Things get a bit more muddled in midfield, although Watford have been boosted by the return of Tom Cleverly heading into this encounter. Moussa Sissoko, Ozan Tufan and Kucka were the ones to form the three-man midfield setup in the last game, but with Kucka likely to operate as a right-back, we could see Imran Louza receive a start, ahead of Cleverly.
As for the attacking setup, Emmanuel Dennis remains the undisputed focal point of the Watford frontline, having netted eight league goals so far this season. The former Koln forward is likely to be partnered by Joao Pedro and Joshua King, although Ken Sema is another option for the Hornets this weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bachmann; Kucka, Sierralta, Cathcart, Masina; Louza, Sissoko, Tufan; Pedro, Dennis, King
Antonio Conte has a few key decisions to make when his side take on Watford. The Italian mastermind made a few rotations in the last game against Southampton, but he should revert those changes this weekend, with Dele Alli, in particular, set to make way for Lucas Moura.
The Brazilian is expected to renew his attacking partnership alongside Son Heung-min and Harry Kane. The three players should operate in a free-flowing setup as usual, although it won’t be surprising to see Kane dropping in to take part in the build-up. His cross-field passes can also be dangerous for the Watford defence.
Ready for Watford. 🔥
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 31, 2021
Elsewhere in the creative department, Conte is likely to persist with the wing-back duo of Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon. The latter has a point to prove after being subbed off at half-time against Southampton. His marauding runs into the final third will be critical as Tottenham look to stretch the Watford backline.
There should be a change in central midfield, with Harry Winks making way for Oliver Skipp. The Englishman should renew his partnership with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who must step up his game, especially in the creative side of things. At the same time, it will be equally important for the Dane to put pressure on the Watford ball-carriers and neutralise any potential counter-attacking threats.
Defensively, Japhet Tanganga is expected to replace Ben Davies as part of Conte’s rotation policy. The youngster should complete the Spurs back-three alongside Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier, whose experience and leadership could be key as Tottenham look to keep another clean sheet this weekend.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Lloris; Sanchez, Dier, Tanganga; Emerson, Hojbjerg, Skipp, Reguilon; Lucas, Son; Kane
- Watford have won just one of their last 17 league games against Tottenham, beating them 2-1 at Vicarage Road in September.
- Tottenham have won just two of their last away league games against Watford (D5 L3), and are winless in their last three visits to Vicarage Road since a 4-1 win over New Year’s Day 2017.
- Watford have won their first league game in just one of their last ten calendar years (D1 L8), beating Wolves 2-1 on New Year’s Day 2020.
- Tottenham lost on New Year’s Day in 2020 (0-1 to Southampton), having won each of their previous six Premier League games on the same day.
- Watford are the only side without a Premier League clean sheet this season. They’ve conceded in each of their last 27 games in the competition, the longest run without a clean sheet by any club in the division since Burnley’s run of 29 games between November 2009 and August 2014.
Player to Watch
First 13 Premier League games: 1 goal
Last 3 Premier League games: 3 goals
Harry Kane is finding his form 🔥 pic.twitter.com/S9YZJgPKmH
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 28, 2021
Harry Kane was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disastrous performance against Southampton in the last game. The Tottenham forward looked sharp in the final third, always willing to make the effort and provide those cross-field passes that often take the opposition defence by surprise.
On top of his chance creation and work rate, Kane is also starting to regain his usual goalscoring mojo. After scoring just one goal in the first 13 Premier League matches, the striker has netted three goals in the last three matches. Moreover, Kane has developed an excellent combination with Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura, and the trio can be particularly deadly on the counter.
Hence, Watford must keep a close eye on the English international, if they are to salvage anything from this Tottenham game this weekend. It will be equally important for them to isolate the wider attackers, knowing they are quite capable of making runs in behind their own defence.
Watford 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
After suffering five defeats on the trot while also keeping no clean sheet in the Premier League this season, it is hard to imagine anything other than a comfortable victory for Tottenham Hotspur in this encounter.
Despite the recent draw with Southampton, the Lilywhites are heading in the right direction. Nearly all of their players have improved under Antonio Conte, and, most importantly, the front three of Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Harry Kane are looking more dangerous than ever.
Watford, in contrast, are heading into this game on the back of poor form and have most of their key players out injured. Hence, we are expecting another three points for the North London giants as they look to continue their merry ways under Conte.