A post-Christmas relegation six-pointer takes place at Vicarage Road on Saturday as Dean Smith’s Aston Villa roll into town to play Watford.
Nigel Pearson has galvanised the Hornets since his arrival and the 2-0 win over Manchester United was following up on Boxing Day by a creditable effort against Sheffield United that saw them add another point to the total.
Shades of Leicester’s 2014-15 great escape will be hanging thick in the Hertfordshire air as a struggling Villa arrive ripe for the taking. The Premier League has been a tough school for the Villans in recent years and they will want to build on the Boxing Day win over Norwich, their first in six top-flight outings.
This will be a nail-biter for sure, so buckle in and get ready for the second half of a campaign that could be a real slog for both these sides.
When is Watford vs Aston Villa and where can I watch live?
Competition: Premier League
Venue: Vicarage Road, Watford, Hertfordshire
Date: Saturday, 28 December 2019
Kick-off: 3:00 PM (UK time)
TV coverage (UK): This game will not be broadcast live in the UK.
Last five meetings: Watford vs Aston Villa
05 February 2000: Aston Villa 4-0 Watford (Premier League)
16 September 2006: Watford 0-0 Aston Villa (Premier League)
20 January 2007: Aston Villa 2-0 Watford (Premier League)
28 November 2015: Aston Villa 2-3 Watford (Premier League)
30 April 2016: Watford 3-2 Aston Villa (Premier League)
Aggregate Score: Watford (WWLDL) 6-10 Aston Villa (LLWDW)
Ones to watch
Watford: Gerard Deulofeu
The Spaniard is truly Watford’s star man. He is the one player Nigel Pearson can expect to create something out of nothing and turn a game in the Hornet’s favour.
This season Deulofeu is the club’s leading scorer (3) and also has the most assists (2), but he can certainly improve on those numbers if the side can play a more settled system, which is exactly what Pearson is expected to do between now and the end of the campaign.
Key stat: Gerard Deulofeu has created 29 chances in the Premier League this season, at least nine more than any other Watford player.
Aston Villa: Jack Grealish
Villa rely heavily on the form of Jack Grealish to give them both creativity and an outlet. He has been superb since the Villans return to the Premier League and was an important figure in their win over Norwich on Boxing Day.
If Villa are to create enough chances to beat Watford, they will need Grealish to be at his best. Nigel Pearson’s side will be well aware of his threat and are unlikely to give the local hero much space but he can be the difference in this one.
Key stat: No Aston Villa player has more goals (5) or more assists (5) in the Premier League this season than Jack Grealish.
Abdoulaye Doucoure returns from suspension, which will be welcome news for the Hornets who are suffering a number of knocks and injuries.
Daryl Janmaat and Tom Cleverley are both injured as is Sebastien Prodl. Jose Holebas is also injured for Watford as they may chose to keep an unchanged back four.
Pearson will likely go with the side that beat Manchester United after recent improvements.
Predicted XI: Foster; Mariappa, Kabasele, Cathcart, Femenia; Capoue, Hughes; Sarr, Doucoure, Deulofeu; Deeney.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
John McGinn is going to be out for up to three months after suffering a fractured ankle, a massive blow for Villa.
Tyrone Mings is a doubt after suffering a hamstring strain and Keinan Davis is also set to miss out again.
Jed Steer is the other Villa man still on the treatment table as Dean Smith could keep the same line up from Boxing Day.
Predicted XI: Heaton; Mohamady, Ngoyo, Hause, Targett; Nakamba, Luiz; Ghazi, Grealish, Trezeguet; Wesley.
Nigel Pearson has been here before and enjoyed great success. He knows how to organise his sides and will make Watford a lot harder to beat. They still need to improve going forward but with Troy Deeney restored to the side he could well add the punch needed to boost the Hornets.
Villa are also a side that can delight spectators on their day but the truth is they simply have not had enough of those this season. No side have a worst record on the road than Villa in the Premier League this season, where Dean Smith’s side have picked up just four points from a possible 27. This could be another long trip home for those hardy Brummies.
Scoreline prediction: Watford 2-1 Aston Villa