Burnley look to follow up on a hugely fortunate 2-1 win over Fulham by travelling to face a Watford side which, despite an inconsistent season, finds itself in seventh place at the start of play. The Hornets, who had an excellent start to the campaign, can legitimately consider themselves to be in European contention, especially given that the sides immediately below them are Leicester, West Ham and Everton – teams that are equally prone to taking one step forward and following it with two steps back.
The Clarets are no doubt relieved to be outside the Premier League’s bottom three, but the truth is they’d be right in there if they hadn’t profited from two own goals scored by Fulham defenders. Boss Sean Dyche has made clear that he does not consider the Turf Moor side to be safe from the drop, and that this season’s travails are certainly not down to complacency. With wins in their last three Premier League games, Burnley are in something resembling form – but Watford are a better side than any of those opponents.
Watford vs Burnley Prediction: Watford 2-1 Burnley
It’s a little bit difficult to explain this prediction without sounding sarcastic, but let’s try. Watford against Burnley just feels like a 2-1 game. Watford are the better of the two sides, but they rarely run away with games; Burnley are seldom humiliated. In front of their home crowd, we’d expect the Hornets to have enough to get a lead and hold on to it – while we also recognise that Burnley will fight for the full ninety minutes. Honestly, few matches have ever felt more like a 2-1 than this. We’d go as far as to say that Watford will lead 2-0 at some point, and a second-half goal will give the visitors (eventually forlorn) hope.
Our recommended tip: Watford 2-1
Much of Burnley’s survival in 2016/17, and their European qualification last season, rested on their excellent defence and ruthless efficiency in attack. This season, neither of those qualities has been much in evidence, and they’ve given up cheap goals too often. Watford, whose side contains a number of gifted individuals, will happily accept a few cheap goals, but they may be vulnerable on the counter-attack themselves. As we’ve noted above, this one feels like a 2-1 – and with BetBright offering 7/1 (8.00) on that outcome, it certainly seems worth a punt.
The previous encounter between these sides came at Turf Moor on the second weekend of the season, in the heart of a great run for Watford and a shocking one for Burnley. Unsurprisingly, the visitors won out.
Former Burnley striker Andre Gray grabbed the first goal, putting Watford ahead on three minutes. Exactly three minutes later, James Tarkowski levelled matters at 1-1 from a Joey Gudmundsson free-kick, and the home side kept it tight until half time. Unfortunately, it took just three minutes (again) for Watford to find the net in the second half, Troy Deeney re-establishing their lead on 48 before Abdoulaye Doucoure made the points safe. His goal? Scored on 51, three (!) minutes after Deeney’s.
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Players to watch: Jose Holebas & James Tarkowski
A team sitting in seventh shouldn’t really be trusting so much to a 34-year-old left back with questionable positioning and poor discipline, and yet… Jose Holebas is something of a talisman to the Hornets. A danger from set-pieces, whether he’s crossing or trying a pot-shot, the Greek international leads the team in assists this season. With the option of Troy Deeney in the penalty area, it’s never a bad idea for Watford to “put it in the mixer”, and Holebas is one of the best in the Premier League at whipping crosses in.
If those crosses do come in, then Burnley will be reliant on Tarkowski to win the aerial battles and clear them. The 26-year-old, drafted into the side at the beginning of last season when the club finally cashed in on Michael Keane, has looked better than the man he replaced – and notably, has been called up more recently by England. Like Holebas, the Clarets’ centre-back isn’t fancy, but he’s definitely effective – and he’ll need to show it here.