Watford vs Bristol City Preview: Pressure on for Poorly Performing Sides?

It's a return to Vicarage Road for the Hornets following a dull 0-0 draw at St. Andrews against Coventry. With both sides winless in their last three games a draw will not be enough, and could even be the final straw for the Head Coaches.

It isn't just a return to the Vic for the Watford squad; Bristol City Centre-Half and former Hornet Adrian Mariappa will be making his homecoming. Mariappa has never played against the club he called home from eight years old, and has enjoyed an extended run in the starting XI following injuries to members of the Robins defence (though mainly at Left-Back, which Watford fans will agree is not his most comfortable position). Close friends with many in the Watford squad, not least Captain Troy Deeney, Mariappa will be hoping to get one over on his former employers on his return to Hertfordshire this weekend, but given Academy Left-Back Ryley Towler's strong performance on Wednesday he won't necessarily be involved. 

Watford's opposition crashed out of the FA Cup in midweek, losing Alfie Mawson to suspension (and injury) in a 1-0 defeat to Premier League side Sheffield United. This adds to the woes of Dean Holden, who has an already depleted squad. He will be looking to prevent a rut having failed to win an away league game this year, and faces (statistically) the best home side in the league. 

In terms of formation, it's a little difficult to predict how Ashton will set out his team. Having played a 3-5-2 in the Cup, a 4-3-3 in the game before, and a 4-4-2 in weeks prior, it seems Bristol City are aiming to be unpredictable, and could spring a surprise on the favourites.

 

From Xisco Munoz's perspective, there isn't a need to worry just yet. With a full week to train with his players, the Spaniard has attempted to familiarise the squad with new systems, tactics and formations, meaning we could see a shift away from the 4-4-2 that has been a mainstay during Munoz's reign so far. The lack of consistent goalscoring hasn't concerned him either, as he believes "when we score the first goal, it should open everything." 

On Philip Zinckernagel, Watford's January first signing who is yet to make a start in the Championship, Xisco stressed that time needs to be given as he integrates into the squad "He is adapting to the new league, the new country and the new system. He is very happy and is a very hard worker and in little time he will be ready and able to show it, meanwhile he is still improving and it is very important to have Philip in the squad."

To read more on potential changes to the squad ahead of the game, read the Press Conference quotes on our website under "Local Vibes".

 

Head-to-Head

Bristol City's only goalless draw so far came in the reverse fixture, whereas Watford have accumulated 5 this campaign. 

In the 2017/18 season the two sides played twice, in the League Cup and FA Cup, both of which at Vicarage Road. Bristol City advanced on the first occasion (Adrian Mariappa scored in that game coincidentally) and the Hosts took the spoils from the second, in a comfortable 3-0 win.

The last Championship tie between these teams at Vicarage Road came in 2012, where the points were shared. Nathaniel Chalobah started in a 2-2 draw, as Matej Vydra and an own goal cancelled out strikes from Marvin Elliott and Steve Davies.

 

Who's the Threat?

Watford: Will Hughes

Xisco Munoz implied that Watford's number 19 will return to his natural position imminently, and I think he could change the fortunes of his sides if utilised properly this weekend. He immediately improved Watford's performance when brought on last weekend and will do so again if his name is on the team-sheet at 2pm this Saturday. 

Bristol City: Famara Diedhiou 

The Robins' top scorer with 8 goals, Diedhiou hasn't found the net in 4 games, but clearly has the potential to convert whenever the ball is at his feet in the final third. If Watford allow him the space as Huddersfield did last month, he could easily find his name on the scoresheet.

 

Elliot's Score Prediction:

With both teams playing so poorly at the moment, a draw is the likely outcome. Perhaps it's Xisco's optimism in his press conference, or the talent at his disposal that makes me confident, or just delusion, but I'm going to back the home side to take all three points.

Watford 2-0 Bristol City

Kick-Off: 3pm, Vicarage Road

Televised? No, but available on HiveLive and iFollow.

Referee: John Brooks

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