Watford will be looking to maintain their 100% start to the season when they welcome Crystal Palace to Vicarage Road for the first of the ‘Super Sunday’ games. Few expected much of Javi Gracia’s men before a ball was kicked a few weeks ago and whilst they aren’t now expected to challenge at the top or anything like that, they have made people sit up and take notice with their start. A comfortable 2-0 win against Brighton was backed up by a very impressive 3-1 success at Burnley, a place notoriously difficult to win at. What’s more, the Hornets have achieved both results playing fast, attacking football and will be optimistic about what this season can hold now.
However, they will face a big obstacle in the form of Palace who have had a very good start to the campaign themselves. An opening day 2-0 win against big-spending Fulham was a big win and whilst they lost to Liverpool last time out, their performance against the much-fancied Reds showed Roy Hodgson’s men are a quality outfit. Liverpool needed a debatable penalty and a breakaway last minute goal against ten man to take the points against a well-organised and solid Palace side.
Therefore, this game will see two good teams clash and it really is a tough one to call.
Watford vs Crystal Palace Prediction: Watford 1-1 Crystal Palace
Given that, we have gone for the draw with our prediction for this clash and it seems a strong call for a game involving two evenly-matched sides on paper. Watford have been an inconsistent side since they won promotion back to the top-flight, so whilst their early form is encouraging, fans will need to see a lot more to suggest they are going to be pushing for a top-half finish come May.
Yet, they do have home advantage and confidence will be high, but Palace are a side that can trouble anyone. Hodgson has firmly made his mark at Selhurst Park, with his team extremely tough to beat, whilst in Wilfried Zaha they have a player of genuine top-class quality that can decide many games at this level. That makes this an intriguing contest and exactly why we can’t separate the sides.
Our recommended tip: Both teams to score
Whilst betting on the draw will appeal to some, the safer bet could be to back both teams to score. Even though they aren’t traditionally high scoring teams, there is enough individual quality on show to ensure we see both sides grab a goal. Watford showed some vulnerability at Burnley last week and Palace have been involved in two entertaining games with plenty of goalmouth action this season.
Then, you look at the way the teams set up. Gracia is sure to go with two strikers in Andre Gray and Troy Deeney, whereas Hodgson has Zaha and Benteke in the final third. With further threats from midfield, such as Roberto Pereyra for the hosts and Andros Townsend for the Eagles, then this is a game that could be a lot better than people perhaps expect.
This will just be the 118th between the two sides and it’s a fixture that has been played at various levels in the football pyramid and from play-offs to FA Cup encounters. Ultimately, it’s Palace who have the slight edge, winning 49 of the previous games and losing 41.
And, they’ve also had the better of things in recent years, heading into the game at Vicarage Road unbeaten in the last five against the Hornets. That positivity goes further when you look at their recent record at Watford. Palace have not lost as the away team in this fixture since 2010, and will be looking to make it eight games unbeaten at Vicarage Road by Sunday evening.
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Players to watch: Andre Gray & Christian Benteke
Andre Gray seemed to have gone off the radar at Watford and when he was linked with a summer move to Stoke many thought a transfer would get done. However, he stayed around and how Watford are glad he did. The former Luton man has started both games up top with Deeney and the signs are that they could be a very effective partnership, boasting great pace, power and aggression between the pair – along with a lot of ability. That was evident last week, when Gray superbly finished off a wonderful move to grab a crucial goal at Turf Moor and it will give him a lot of confidence going into the game. His time at Watford hasn’t really gone to plan after his big-money move but he could be given a chance to really cement his place in the team and needs to take it by performing again against Palace.
For the visitors, the star man is obvious – Wilfried Zaha. However, we will instead look at Christian Benteke who is seriously struggling but has the ability to become the feared striker that he once was. Firstly, it doesn’t have to be about scoring goals for Benteke to be a handful as his sheer size and presence means he will have an important role to play. The way he holds the ball up and occupies defenders can be key in aiding Zaha, which is what the team need. The former Liverpool man is low on confidence and form but one goal can change everything for a striker and Hodgson and Palace will hope that comes for the Belgian this weekend as if it does he would transform the team when at his best.