Watford vs Everton

Friday, 23 February, 2018 0comments  |  Jump to last
Match Preview

Oumar Niasse looks likely to get the starting nod again ahead of Cenk Tosun and Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Everton travel to Watford tomorrow looking to push on over the final 11 games and try and secure seventh place in the Premier League.

The Blues come into the weekend sitting two points behind Burnley and a point off Leicester in the race for what a berth that looks like it could be a worth a place in the Europa League next season. Safety from relegation isn't yet assured but it would take a spectacularly poor run of results from a favourable run of fixtures for any serious danger of the drop to re-emerge.

That should leave Sam Allardyce, armed with more information on his players following a week of warm-weather training in Dubai, free to concentrate on finding a settled team for the final stretch of the campaign.

He appeared close with the line-up that faced Leicester and then Crystal Palace in the last two home games but injuries have again become a factor, particularly in defence. Seamus Coleman suffered an unspecified soft-tissue injury in the first half of the win over Palace, Phil Jagielka appears to have been ruled out and Eliaquim Mangala's spell with Everton could be over already after he suffered suspected knee ligament damage in the same game.

Coleman is a doubt to face the Hornets and would likely be replaced by Jonjoe Kenny but Leighton Baines and Ramiro Funes Mori have both stepped up their training in the last week and could be named in the squad even if they're not in the starting XI.

In midfield, Idrissa Gueye is also questionable after being substituted late in the last game after picking up a knock. With James McCarthy also out, that could affect Allardyce's desire to have a tough-tackling disruptor in front of his back four and, if the Senegalese international doesn't make it, it paves the way for Morgan Schneiderlin's return to the side.

The Frenchman could start regardless. Allardyce has been more conservative away from home where the Blues have won just twice since January last year and has favoured two defensive midfielders when not playing at Goodison Park but he has to balance the form of Tom Davies, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney, all of whom were benched for the game at Arsenal.

Up front, the manager's rhetoric in his press conference suggests that Oumar Niasse will get the nod again despite the progress Cenk Tosun appeared to make in Dubai this past week. That will, in all likelihood, mean the Turk taking his place among the substitutes with Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

“We've got great competition because of Oumar's great form,” Allardyce told the media today. “Oumar has made it difficult for me to replace him.

"I think his position at Everton has never been as good as it is at the moment and the competition with him and Dominic and Tosun is fierce which is what you want.”

Watford, of course, will almost certainly line up with Goodison old boy Gerard Deulofeu in their side, the Spanish winger facing the Blues for the first time since he was sold to Barcelona and then returned to the Premier League on loan with the Hornets.

Deulofeu was at his marauding best in Watford's surprise 4-1 win over Chelsea in their last match at Vicarage Road, the first under new manager Javi Gracia, and he will probably be relishing going up against his old club, particularly if it's against makeshift left back Cuco Martina rather than Baines.

Gracia has the rest of his forward line of Troy Deeney and Richarlison intact but has injury concerns of his own in Christian Kabasele, another ex-Everton player, Tom Cleverley, Younes Kaboul, and Nathaniel Chalobah, while goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes and midfielder Will Hughes are back in training but are still doubts.

The proof of the pudding as far as the break in the Middle East and the progress Allardyce and his staff will say they have made in further gelling the squad will be in the eating in the coming weeks, starting with an opportunity to score a rare away win this weekend.

Since the goalless draw at West Brom on Boxing Day, the Blues have lost all four of their matches on the road in league and cup, two of them by heavy margins, so there is plenty for the manager to prove in what promises to be a tricky fixture.

Kick-off 5:30pm, Saturday 24 February, 20818
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Last Time: Watford 3 - 2 Everton

Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Keane, Williams, Baines, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Davies, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Niasse