Watford vs Newcastle preview: Jonjo Shelvey in contention for Magpies
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Last Updated: 29/12/18 8:40am
Jonjo Shelvey will be back in contention for Newcastle when they travel south to Watford in the Premier League on Saturday.
The midfielder has recovered from a thigh injury, which is well timed as Sung-Yueng Ki is now away on international duty with South Korea at the Asian Cup.
Newcastle are five points above the relegation zone and manager Rafa Benitez is hoping they can end their year on a high.
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"To get three points will be massive - we'll be in a much better position in the table. But it is just as important to start 2019 well," he said.
"Some people underestimate the great job Javi Gracia is doing [at Watford]. They are playing well, they can compete against anyone, they can keep the ball and defend, and they have some strength physically."
Watford finished the first half of the season in 10th position in the Premier League.
They lost 2-1 at home to Chelsea last time out, having beaten Cardiff and West Ham in their previous two matches.
With Shelvey back in action, Benitez has only Karl Darlow (elbow) and Ciaran Clark (ankle) missing, with Florian Lejeune now available after a lengthy lay-off with knee ligament damage.
Watford will be without Christian Kabasele. The defender was hospitalised after colliding with a goal post during the defeat to Chelsea, though he appears to have escaped serious injury.
Will Hughes (hip), Andre Gray (leg), Sebastian Prodl (knee) and Adalberto Penaranda (foot) were all absent on Boxing Day and could remain out.
Watford have won four of their last five Premier League meetings with Newcastle (L1), after failing to win any of their first four against the Magpies in the competition (D2 L2).
Newcastle won the reverse fixture earlier this season courtesy of a goal from Ayoze Perez - they last won consecutive matches against Watford in February 2010 in the Championship.
Newcastle have lost their last three away games against Watford in all competitions - their longest losing streak away to the Hornets.
Watford have lost three of their last four home league games, as many as they had in their first 13 at Vicarage Road under manager Javier Gracia (W8 D2 L3).
Newcastle have failed to score in their last two Premier League games, last failing to score in three in a row in January 2016 under Steve McClaren.
Watford's Andre Gray found the back of the net in both fixtures against Newcastle last season, accounting for 25% of his total Premier League goals for the Hornets (2/8).
Newcastle were very poor against Liverpool, and I don't think they even had a shot against Fulham. They will make it hard for Watford, they just don't score any goals, and they will get punished by a Watford side with plenty of firepower going forward. Newcastle have the players capable of causing damage, but this isn't the game for them.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0 (7/1 with Sky Bet)