PMB: Chelsea v Watford - matchday

The final part of the Pre-Match Briefing gets you ready for today's game...

• Maurizio Sarri is likely to recall some players who did not start against Frankfurt as he navigates his injury-hit squad through the remaining three – hopefully four – fixtures of the season. Among those hoping for a return will be Marcos Alonso, who has scored or set up five goals in as many games in league and cup, and Gonzalo Higuain, who netted his fourth Chelsea goal last time out at the Bridge. Eden Hazard came off the bench in Germany and has hit three goals in his past two matches against Sunday’s visitors.

• With two league games remaining, the Blues are yet to hit the net directly from a free-kick. If none come it will be the first blank from that source since 2011/12. Watford have at times looked susceptible through the middle in recent matches, especially when the opposition steal the ball from them when they are attacking.

• Only relegated Huddersfield (14 goals) have let in more headed goals than the Hornets’ 13. The visitors have also conceded 10 times in the last quarter-hour of top-flight matches on the road, a period in which the Blues have netted 11 times at the Bridge. They are one of only two sides against whom Cesar Azpilicueta has scored more than once (the other being West Brom).


• Javier Gracia, who has won one and lost one against Chelsea, favours a 4-2-2-2 formation. Watford set up very narrowly and take the game to teams with aggression and speed. They have ever-willing dribblers in Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes, and a pair of strikers who attempt to split centre-backs. He often manages to have an impact with substitutes such as Isaac Success or Gerard Deulofeu, who has had a hand in seven of Watford’s last nine away league goals.

• Gracia often likes to freshen his team up but has lost key midfielder Etienne Capoue and Miguel Britos to injury. The Spaniard may select goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, ever-present in the FA Cup and set to start the final but short of match practice. Central defender Craig Cathcart had ‘a little problem’ last weekend and may be rested, but Jose Holebas has returned from injury. Another weapon in the Hornets’ armoury, Troy Deeney, is available to partner in-form Andre Gray upfront after serving a three-match suspension for violent conduct.

• The Watford coach has been concerned at his side ‘conceding avoidable goals’ in recent matches, including goalkeeping errors, which may suggest the long campaigns in league and cup are taking their toll. They have played 10 successive league matches without a clean sheet.

Maurizio Sarri's pre-match quotes

‘We have to play again 62 hours after our last game, but it’s up to us to recover mentally and have a very high level of motivation and confidence,’ the boss said. It’s a dangerous match, of course. After 62 hours any opponent would be dangerous. It won’t be easy. In England every match is a battle, and you risk paying for that. We spent physical and mental energy against Frankfurt.

‘We will need to change some players in the starting XI. I don’t know how many, but I think four or five players. We have the top four in our hands, but we need to win the last matches.’

Watford manager Javi Gracier's pre-match quotes

‘I prefer to speak about the whole team. We play against Chelsea – not only Hazard. In the first game he played as a striker and now I think he will play as a no.10. We know we have to defend well when he has the ball as he is always able to do something different.

‘We always have to have a collective mentality to defend and to attack.’

Squad news

Ethan Ampadu
Callum Hudson-Odoi
Toni Rudiger


Miguel Britos
Etienne Capoue
Tommie Hoban
Sebastian Prodl
Domingos Quina

Tom Cleverley


Matchday weather outlook

Cool and breezy in SW6, with the possibility of some sun.

- Follow the game in our Match Centre

More from chelsea