Vicarage Road plays host to a Premier League encounter between Watford and Chelsea on Wednesday.
Claudio Ranieri’s 4-2 defeat to his former club Leicester City at the King Power Stadium at the weekend left his Watford side hovering a mere four points clear of the drop zone.
The Italian strategist will hope for a better outcome against another of his former employers in Chelsea, although it looks like a formidable challenge at this point.
Despite attempting 24 shots on goal compared with Manchester United’s six, the reigning Premier League holders could only manage a 1-1 derby draw at Stamford Bridge last time out.
With second-placed Manchester City only one point adrift of them heading into the midweek round of fixtures, Chelsea can ill-afford another slip-up if they are to retain the top spot.
Sunday’s stalemate with United could prove a minor setback, given the Blues’ imperious form away from home.
Thomas Tuchel’s men have won each of their last four away games in all competitions without conceding a single goal, including a 3-0 thumping of Leicester last time out.
Watford vs Chelsea Head-to-Head
The London heavyweights have had no mercy for Watford of late, beating this opposition in their last four Premier League encounters by an aggregate score of 10-2.
Chelsea’s last two top-flight visits to Vicarage Road have yielded identical 2-1 victories, meaning they could win three straight league fixtures here for the first time in the club’s history.
Connoisseurs of action-packed football will look forward to this showdown, with the last eight Premier League meetings between Chelsea and Watford featuring 33 goals, at an average of 4.1 per match.
Since a 1-1 home draw with basement boys Newcastle United in late September, none of Watford’s last seven Premier League outings have ended level (W2, L5).
While four of their five defeats in that seven-game period saw the Hornets draw a blank, both of their victories in that time witnessed them score 4+ goals, including a crushing 4-1 win over Man United in their most recent league fixture at Vicarage Road.
Ranieri’s men have blown hot and cold in front of goal lately, although even another prolific sequence might not prove enough to undo their defensive wobble.
Watford have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 23 Premier League matches, the longest ongoing run among the current top-flight teams.
Penetrating Chelsea’s air-tight backline could be an issue, but the in-form striker Joshua King may be the key to unlocking Tuchel’s almost impenetrable defensive unit.
The ex-Everton man has netted five goals in his last five Premier League appearances, with three of those strikes arriving within the opening 30 minutes of play.
Chelsea have gone from strength to strength since falling to a 1-0 home loss to Man City in late September, racking up a seven-game unbeaten run in the Premier League (W5, D2).
That’s the type of form they’ll be looking to dwell on at Vicarage Road, as they hope to defy their ‘Wednesday jinx’ that has seen them fail to win any of their last five top-flight games staged on this day (D2, L3).
Barring a hard-earned 1-1 draw at Liverpool in late August, the Blues have won their remaining five Premier League away matches this season without conceding, including the last four in a row.
It’s been 13 years since Chelsea last boasted a longer such streak, having managed six consecutive away league wins ‘to nil’ under Luis Felipe Scolari between September and December 2008.
Highly-rated right-back Reece James has developed into one of Tuchel’s most trusted defenders, nailing down the right full-back position as his own.
In addition to providing cover to a three-man backline, the Englishman has been equally impressive in the attacking sense, tallying three second-half goals in his last six competitive appearances.
Watford vs Chelsea Predicted Line-ups
Watford (4-1-4-1): Daniel Bachmann; Kiko Femenia, Craig Cathcart, William Troost-Ekong, Danny Rose; Imran Louza; Cucho Hernandez, Tom Cleverley, Moussa Sissoko, Joshua King; Joao Pedro.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Edouard Mendy; Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger; Reece James, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Marcos Alonso; Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount; Romelu Lukaku.
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