Watford vs Chelsea: Hornets Capable of Halting Blues ProgressPublished February 2, 2016
Had anyone suggested at the start of the season that Watford would stand four points better off than Chelsea in the Premier League going into February, they would have been mercilessly ridiculed and warned against skipping their medication again.
The fact that that’s exactly the position these two teams currently find themselves in says as much about Watford exceeding expectations as it does about Chelsea’s well-documented troubles this term. With 32-points already in the bag, the Hornets are realistically just a handful of points from ensuring their top-flight status for another season. The 2-1 win at home to Newcastle United in their last league game ended a run of four straight defeats and put a healthy distance between themselves and the drop-zone.
Everything is looking pretty rosy for the Hornets at present, with a late Odion Ighalo goal seeing them beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 in the FA Cup at the City Ground on Saturday to book their place in the 5th round. Whilst Ighalo and Troy Deeney have been receiving many of the plaudits for Watford’s excellent campaign, it can’t be overlooked that they’ve only conceded 26 goals in the Premier League to date. Only six teams can boast a better defensive record.
They’ve also completed some significant additions to the squad over the past couple of weeks, with winger Nordin Amrabat signing from Malaga, goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon arriving from Sunderland and, most recently, midfielder Mario Suarez joining from Fiorentina. The Pozzo family and Quique Sanchez Flores already appear to be making preparations for next season.
Chelsea travel to Vicarage Road yet to taste defeat in the nine games since Guus Hiddink took charge and most recently beat MK Dons 5-1 in the FA Cup. The performances are still largely unconvincing, but the results have clearly bolstered confidence and they are gradually pulling clear of the danger-zone. Securing a top-four finish is now unrealistic (14-points shy of 4th spot with 15 games remaining), so Chelsea’s priorities will be focused on European and domestic cup competitions and perhaps looking for a top-six finish.
The Premier League champions have had a relatively quiet transfer window to date, with the main acquisition being Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato on loan from Corinthians for the remainder of the season. A major revamp seems inevitable at Chelsea, but it will wait until the summer.
When the two teams met at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day the match finished 2-2. Another draw could be on the cards here, making Watford an attractive bet on the Asian Handicap +0.5, so covering a Watford win and the draw.