The games are coming thick and fast in the Championship, as Watford face Barnsley on their travels this weekend. Following two 1-1 draws in the past week the Hornets will be itching to get back on the winning track.
Vladimir Ivic has no new injury concerns ahead of the trip to Oakwell, and his side may be bolstered by the return of first-team players who haven't yet featured this season. Speaking to Vibe 107.6 on Thursday, Ivic noted that Stipe Perica's potentially serious arm injury isn't as severe as expected, and the player will make a swift recovery over the next couple of weeks. Andre Gray, Will Hughes, and Troy Deeney are all in first-team training, with only the latter not yet completely fit. Christian Kabasele is fully fit also despite a clash in Tuesday's draw with Wycombe but could be rotated, having played a part in every Championship game for Watford so far. Ivic highlighted the need to improve on Set-Pieces and demanded: "more energy" from his players.
The Head Coach again expressed his desire to sign a free agent, in "one position" which from what I understand, is a natural left-back. This may be as part of a wish to change his system to a 4-3-3. During his Press Conference, Ivic mentioned that Ismaila Sarr and Joao Pedro's central roles are merely due to the shortage of out-and-out strikers, particularly due to the absence of Andre Gray, Troy Deeney, and Stipe Perica.
Ismaila Sarr is off the mark following his goal against Wycombe on Tuesday.
Tom Dele-Bashiru (ACL, out for a number of months.)
Troy Deeney (Doubtful)
Barnsley's season has been anything but quiet so far. Their Head Coach going into the season was tactician Gerhard Struber, who was very much considered by Watford as an alternative to Vladimir Ivic before the Serb's appointment. However, Struber's hard work to keep Barnsley afloat last season was rewarded as he was appointed Head Coach of MLS side New York Red Bulls, leaving Barnsley Managerless and wallowing, winless, near the bottom of the Championship. Incredibly, Barnsley are unbeaten since his departure, with French Manager Valérien Ismaël now at the helm following Adam Murray's interim spell, and with 6 goals in 3 games, appear to have solved their misfirings in front of goal, notably beating Queens Park Rangers 3-0 in midweek.
Ismaël sets out his Barnsley side in a 3-4-2-1, with Cauley Woodrow and Conor Chaplin leading the line. The confident Head Coach stated that his side "can beat anyone" but recognises the quality of Saturday's visitors.
Barnsley will hope their midweek win over QPR was more than just a flash in the pan.
Head to Head
Watford won their ties against Barnsley in 2013/14 by an aggregate score of 8-1, with a 5-1 win at Oakwell, and a 3-0 home victory. Troy Deeney, Cristian Battocchio, and a solitary Watford goal for Kazakhstan International Alexander Merkel.
Watford's last defeat to the Tykes was back in March of 2013. Jonathan Bond was unable to keep out a Bobby Hassell finish for the only goal of the game.
From 2002 to 2008 Barnsley had a 100% record against the Hornets. Danny Graham ended the winless run against Barnsley with a second-half strike in 2009.
Who's the Threat?
Barnsley: Alex Mowatt
Club Captain Alex Mowatt has impressed despite Barnsley's inconsistent form this season and has been tipped for a bigger move if he can't agree on terms on a new Barnsley contract. Despite depth in the Tykes' midfield, Mowatt continues to impress as a starter and is ahead of Leicester loanee Matty James in the pecking order. Last week's outside of the box strike against Millwall also demonstrates his talent in front of the goal.
Watford: Joao Pedro
Perhaps an easy one, Joao Pedro has hugely impressed the Watford faithful with his technical brilliance and a seemingly endless supply of energy. If he can get in behind the 3 defenders of Barnsley, the Brazilian Teenager could have a very good time on Saturday afternoon.
Elliot's Score Prediction
Saturday's result is hugely dependent on whether Barnsley can continue their form from midweek or revert back to old habits. Ismaël will be drilling into his players that this is a winnable game, especially following Watford's poor performance at Adams Park, but I, ever the optimist, see Watford fighting through the Barnsley threat.
Barnsley 0-1 Watford
Kick-off: Saturday, 15:00
Televised? No, but available on Hive Live.
Referee: Matthew Donohue