Watford welcome Newcastle to Vicarage Road, hoping to extend the Magpies' miserable start to the season
Two teams who are expected to be fighting at the lower end of the Premier League table clash at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon, as Watford welcome winless Newcastle United.
Xisco Munoz’s side have had a rollercoaster start to their latest crack at the top flight, winning two and losing three of their first five games since returning from the Championship last season. Three goals were scored in their two victories, away at Norwich last weekend, and at home to Aston Villa on the opening day.
Meanwhile, Newcastle have started slowly once again, and are winless in league competition, with two draws and three losses from their first five. That has once again brought pressure on manager Steve Bruce, who is consistently denying reports that he’s set to leave the club in the near future, with his contract expiring at the end of the season.
Munoz is under no such pressure right now, which is a rarity for most Watford managers of the last decade, as the Hornets sit 11th in the table. One concern could be their defence though, with no clean sheets yet this season, but Daniel Bachmann could return to the side against Newcastle after missing the win over Norwich with a knee injury. The Austrian stopper will be assessed closer to kick-off to determine whether he gets the start over veteran Ben Foster or not.
Watford are also hoping Joao Pedro can return from a similar knee problem, having trained towards the end of the week, and Kiko Femenia is in a similar position having overcome the worst of an abductor injury that has hampered him since April, restricting him to just 58 minutes of action this season.
As for Newcastle, Bruce is rumoured to be switching away from his beloved back five system that he has employed for most of his time at Newcastle, with the team training in a back four all this week, if whispers from the training ground are true.
Martin Dubravka has returned to training this week after an ankle injury became infected, but isn’t expected to make the matchday squad for another week or two. Karl Darlow should continue between the sticks, having replaced Freddie Woodman last week, with the former Swansea loanee apparently struggling with a knock.
Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett will miss out again with calf injuries, and Callum Wilson is also unlikely to play any part with yet another hamstring problem that the club are taking their time with. Joe Willock was seen in a protective boot earlier this week, but the former Arsenal man was using it as a precaution and is expected to be OK.
The match will also go down in Premier League history, as Australian Jarred Gillett becomes the first foreign referee to ever take charge of a top flight match. The former A-League whistler has been in England for over a year, taking charge of Championship games before being promoted recently. Last week, he was in charge of VAR when Newcastle drew with Leeds United, and missed what looked like a penalty for Willock’s tackle on Daniel James, so Newcastle fans will be hoping for more favourable decisions when he’s in the middle at Vicarage Road.
Speaking of history, it’s not been kind to the Magpies over the years when playing Watford away. The last time they beat the Hornets away from home was 2010 in the Championship, with Fabricio Coloccini and Andy Carroll scoring the goals. The other five meetings since have resulted in four Watford wins by a one-goal margin and a 1-1 draw in 2018.
Watford take on Newcastle United at Vicarage Road on Saturday, September 25th. Kick-off is at 3pm.