Stoke City v Watford preview: Ben Watson says bet365 trip is biggest game of the season
Last Updated: 31/01/18 9:23pm
Watford midfielder Ben Watson says their visit to Stoke City on Wednesday (kick-off 8pm) is their biggest game of the season so far.
Their trip to the bet365 Stadium will be the first Premier League clash of Javi Gracia's reign at Watford since replacing Marco Silva.
The Hornets currently sit in 10th place but have lost eight of their last 11 league games, which led to the departure of Silva. Gracia oversaw the FA Cup defeat at Southampton on Saturday, so will be looking for a response from his new charges.
"(The poor performance at Southampton) Is what you get when you are not winning games and struggling for form, but we have got to keep going and get out of this," Watson said.
"We can't rely on anyone, and Wednesday is the biggest game of the season. If you ask anyone in the Premier League, first and foremost it is about being a Premier League club next year.
"We have got to go to Stoke and impose ourselves and we have to make sure that we leave nothing on the pitch. Any of 10 teams could go down and we have to make sure we are not one of them.
"We are in this hole and we as players, as staff, and everyone involved, we have to get out of it."
Stoke manager Paul Lambert does not believe the final day of the transfer window comes as a distraction to the game, stating club director Tony Scholes will deal with any transfers.
The Potters have enjoyed a 10-day break since beating Huddersfield after being knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round by Coventry, and Lambert hopes his side can take advantage of the extra time off.
He said: "It's given me time to do that little bit more work with them on ideas that we think can help us, so it has been beneficial albeit we wouldn't have wanted to get knocked out of the Cup. But it sets us up for Wednesday.
"It'll be a tough game. It's a new manager, but if we can keep some momentum especially at home then we've got a great chance of winning. We're playing well and everything is really positive."
Lambert has virtually a full-strength squad to pick from with only Glen Johnson (knee) injured and unavailable for selection.
Gracia, on the other hand, has a hefty injury list to contend with ahead of his first league match in charge.
Will Hughes (hamstring), Miguel Britos (foot), Molla Wague (hamstring), Younes Kaboul (foot), Nathaniel Chalobah (knee), Isaac Success (knee), Craig Cathcart (knee) and Kiko Femenia (hamstring) are all out.
Furthermore, Heurelho Gomes (back), Troy Deeney (illness) and Tom Cleverley (hamstring) are all rated as doubtful.
- After losing their first Premier League match against Watford in October 2015 (0-2), Stoke have won each of their last four against the Hornets in the competition.
- Watford have failed to score in each of their last three Premier League matches against Stoke and have gone 274 minutes since they last found the net versus the Potters.
- Stoke have won a league-high 74% of their Premier League points in home games this season (17/23), while Watford have won the joint-largest share away from home (50%, level with Burnley).
- The Potters haven't won back-to-back Premier League games since January 2017, which included a home victory against Watford.
- The Hornets won 18 points in their first 12 Premier League games this season (8th most in the division) but have won just eight in their subsequent 12 (2nd fewest). No team has a bigger negative points disparity over the 12 games than Watford (10, level with Burnley).
- Paul Lambert's only previous managerial meetings with Watford came in the 2010-11 Championship season - his Norwich side lost 2-3 at home on the opening weekend, before a 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road.
- This will be Javi Gracia's first Premier League game in charge of Watford; none of their previous five managers in the competition have won their first game, with Graham Taylor and Aidy Boothroyd losing, and Quique Sanchez Flores, Walter Mazzarri and Marco Silva drawing.
- Indeed, Gracia's appointment means Watford are the first Premier League club to have had two Spanish managers, after Quique Sanchez Flores.
- No team has used more players than Watford in the Premier League this season (27, level with Everton), while the 16 different nationalities fielded by the Hornets is also a league-high.
Watford are really struggling at the moment. They sacked the manager and got Javi Gracia in quickly so they'll be hoping for a quick turnaround in fortunes. I think they're in real big trouble though. They're the team on a glass mountain with moccasin slippers on.
I expect Stoke to win this game comfortably to add to Watford's misery.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0
Eric Choupo Moting and Mame Biram Diouf share favouritism in the first goalscorer betting at 5/1 apiece, followed by Troy Deeney at 6/1.
The hosts are, however, considered four times more likely to face relegation at 9/4 to go down.
Wednesday night's Premier League clashes make up the midweek Super 6 line-up, with the £1million still to be won.