PMB: Watford v Chelsea - tactics
news Mon 5 Feb 2018
We conclude our Pre-Match Briefing for today's Premier League encounter up the M1...
• The reverse fixture at the Bridge, a crash-bang-wallop 12.30 kick-off that finished 4-2 to Antonio Conte’s side, could genuinely have gone either way. Both sides showed power and purpose and pressed opponents into errors. Watford, matching Chelsea’s 3-4-3, and with an efficient offside trap, actually shaded it on shots, firing off 16 compared to 14 for the hosts.
• The sensational performance of Eden Hazard was the key to Chelsea’s victory that day and we shall see what sting the Hornets can summon up to prevent a recurrence.
• After Wednesday’s setback we are in need of a solid result. With Michy Batshuayi (who struck a decisive brace in that 4-2 win) on loan for the rest of the season at Dortmund, and Alvaro Morata nursing his injured back, the newly Blue Olivier Giroud could make an early bow, although Conte has suggested his physical condition may be most suited for a substitute’s role. The France striker netted from close range on his first visit to Vicarage Road in October 2015. We may also see new signing Emerson Palmieri on the left should the head coach wish to hand Marcos Alonso a rest. Willian may be available again after the injury that forced him off at the Emirates.
• The Blues attack needs to rediscover the clinical edge shown at Brighton. In midweek both sides had five shots on target, but the scoreline illustrates the disparity in quality of chances and ruthlessness.
• Andreas Christensen’s hamstring injury has come with natural replacement David Luiz only returning to training on Thursday. The team ended Wednesday’s match in a 4-3-3 formation but could not make the 66 per cent overall possession count.
• Despite Watford’s long injury list and poor recent form, there is no room for complacency against the Hornets. As at the Bridge, the Blues will have to match a tall, powerful side in spirit and physicality, winning second balls and regaining possession, in order to leave with three vital points.
• The replacement for sacked coach Marco Silva, Javi Gracia, has a track record of reacting to opposition tactics, changing his set-up if necessary to negate strengths and exploit weaknesses.
• The Hornets’ main threat in the game at the Bridge came down the Chelsea right, through the pacy and clever Richarlison and left-back Jose Holebas’s interceptions, driving runs and throw-ins. Injuries and loss of form are taking their toll, however, and Holebas and midfield playmaker Etienne Capoue (pictured below) are the men Chelsea will want to stifle. The Frenchman showed signs of linking well with new arrival Gerard Deulofeu in midweek at Stoke. The Barcelona loanee played almost all of the 90 minutes and showed some nice touches on the right wing before his lack of match fitness showed. He will not have fond memories on his return to Vicarage Road, though: his last game for Everton was a 2-3 defeat there 13 months ago.
• Gracia made four changes from the previous weekend’s defeat for a physical battle with the Potters, and switched to a 4-3-3. He was barely able to name 18 fit players and redeployed centre-half Adrian Mariappa at right-back. His problems worsened as Tom Cleverley succumbed to a hamstring injury, having just returned from the same problem.
• Experienced Greek goalie Orestis Karnezis may retain his place between the sticks while Heurelho Gomes recovers from a back injury. This is the first opportunity for the coach to use winger Dodi Lukebakio, although fellow deadline day signing, midfielder Didier Ndong, is suspended.
OLD BOY BLUES
A boyhood Chelsea fan, Watford's Nathaniel Chalobah joined the Chelsea Academy aged 10, led the Under-18s to FA Youth Cup glory in 2012, and featured 10 times for the champions in 2016/17. He is currently injured.
Andreas Christensen (hamstring)
Alvaro Morata (back)
Miguel Britos (foot)
Craig Cathcart (knee)
Nathaniel Chalobah (knee)
Tom Cleverley (hamstring)
Kiko Femenia (hamstring)
Tommie Hoban (acl)
Will Hughes (hamstring)
Molla Wague (hamstring)
Heurelho Gomes (back)
Younes Kabul (foot)