After a massive win on the south coast last week Palace return home to host Watford.
Last week provided the result that every Palace fan dreams of, a win over hated archrivals Brighton. The Eagles did not dominate the game and only won with a second half goal against the run of play, but all that matters is the three points and the singing of the fans at the end of the game. The win lifted Palace up to twelfth place, a comfortable nine points above the relegation zone and only six points below fifth place.
Watford pulled off one of the results of the season last week. The Hornets upset run-away league leaders Liverpool in a convincing 3-0 victory. The loss ended The Red’s undefeated season and was their first loss in 44 league games. The win could prove to be the catalyst Watford need to escape dropping to The Championship as they currently sit outside the relegation zone on goal difference alone. The teams played out a 0-0 draw when Palace visited Vicarage Road in December.
After a second win in a row there is little reason to expect any changes to the Palace starting line-up. Gary Cahill and Scott Dann were amazing again as they held a consecutive shutout with Vicente Guaita looking assured as ever behind them in goal. Club Captain Luka Milivojević will likely be limited to a bench spot once again as none of the midfielders who have played in his absence have looked shaky. He could return to the line-up if James McCarthy cannot play due to his hamstring injury, although Jaïro Riedewald appears more likely to take his place. Despite wasting a prime opportunity to open the scoring, Christian Benteke provided key link-up play throughout the match and was instrumental by providing the assist for Jordan Ayew’s winner. Extra eyes will also be on Wilfried Zaha as Watford fans, and sometimes their mascot, have proven to be amongst his most dedicated hecklers since the club’s time in The Championship.
The weakness of Watford comes in their defence where the team has been somewhat unsettled outside of veteran keeper Ben Foster and longtime defender Craig Cathcart. If the team’s weakness is in the back their strength is in midfield. The trio of Abdoulaye Doucouré, Will Hughes, and Étienne Capouecomplement each other well and were all outstanding against Liverpool last week. The team is very reliant on these three players with Roberto Pereyra the only other squad member to have more than ten starts in the midfield this season. Troy Deeney continues to be the main striker for the team, as he has for most of the last ten seasons.
Last week’s victory did not come without a cost for Watford as Gerard Deulofeu suffered a serious knee injury. The Spanish winger had appeared in every game for the Hornets and will be missed as they attempt to stave off relegation. His absence will put increased pressure on Andre Gray and Ismaïla Sarr to deliver an attacking threat. Sarr in particular will be of concern for Palace players and fans. The young Senegalese winger has thrived since the appointment of Nigel Pearson and scored a crucial brace to go along with an assist last week. Sarr has the pace to run behind any defence and positioning will be key for defenders wearing the red and blue to ensure that he does not get in behind on goal.
Last week was a perfect example of simply how crazy the Premier League can be. As Watford demonstrated no matter how predictable the result of a match may seem anything is possible. This is a game that Palace should feel comfortable in their ability to win. If they maintain their defensive structure and don’t waste their chances they should have no problem bring Watford and their fans crashing back down to reality after the high of last week.