Marco Silva returns to Watford with his current club Everton this weekend, with both teams off form. Kevin Hatchard believes we could be set for a close game in Hertfordshire...
"Watford have played out four draws in their last six league games, and neither team is consistently playing well."
Watford v Everton
Saturday 09 February, 15:00
Watford still well placed despite slump
For Watford to be two wins away from the "magic 40-point mark" with 13 games left is pretty impressive, and the Hornets are only four wins away from their best ever Premier League points total. Those in the know in Spanish football spoke in glowing terms about Javi Gracia when he was appointed to replace Marco Silva just over a year ago, and that praise has been justified.
Just as Watford might be breaking with recent tradition by keeping hold of a manager (a new long-term contract was signed in late November), Gracia is also putting down roots after a nomadic coaching career. He has had brief spells in Greece and Russia, and has taken charge of six different Spanish teams.
Gracia is enjoying his time at Vicarage Road, but that doesn't mean he is undemanding. In several occasions he has bemoaned his players' lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, and that has contributed to a run of one win in seven PL games. If you stretch back further, Watford have taken maximum points from just three of their last 15 top-flight matches.
Dynamic midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure is still struggling with a knee problem and may miss out again, while Isaac Success, Roberto Pereyra, Kiko Femenia and Sebastian Prodl are all injured.
Silva the latest to wrestle with Everton's expectations
Of all the clubs in the Premier League, Everton is arguably the one with most difficult set of expectations to define and then fulfil. Barring a total and utter disaster, they won't be relegated, but with the top six currently a long way clear of the rest, what can really be achieved? The money of owner Farhad Moshiri has heightened expectations, and some big names like Barcelona alumni Andre Gomes and Lucas Digne have been attracted to the club, but it's hard to see where the next step in Everton's evolution is expected to take them.
Of course, there are things that can be achieved. Seventh spot is a genuine target that should be within this team's reach, while cup exits to Championship side Millwall and a Southampton team that was struggling badly at the time were unacceptable. Therefore, you can understand why some flak has come the way of manager Marco Silva. His team is horrendously brittle at set plays, and the Toffees' record against the top six is disturbingly bad.
That said, there is only a five-point gap between Everton and seventh-placed Wolves, so there is time to turn this campaign around and buy Silva more time to get his point across. Everton must think very carefully before jettisoning another coach - since David Moyes departed for Manchester United in 2013, five different men have sat upon the Goodison Park hotseat, and only Roberto Martinez has lasted more than two years.
Left-back Leighton Baines is injured, while there are also fitness doubts about centre-backs Yerry Mina and Phil Jagielka.
Stalemate between strugglers would be no surprise
Neither of these teams is anywhere near their best right now, and Watford have played out four draws in their last six Premier League matches. Both teams are misfiring (Watford have scored three goals in their last four league games, as have Everton), so it wouldn't be a shock to see them cancel each other out. The teams played out a 2-2 draw at Goodison earlier this season.
Everton have lost four of their last five games in league and cup, but it's still hard to justify Watford's odds of [2.4] to win. The hosts have picked up just two victories in their last nine PL games on home soil, and both of those success were against teams in the bottom three.
I'll back the draw here at [3.5].
Recent drought makes unders worth considering
Under 2.5 Goals in trading at [2.0] here, and there's merit in that. Five of Watford's last eight games in league and cup have featured fewer than three goals, and their last two home matches have ended 1-1 and 0-0. Five of Everton's last seven league games have seen an Under 2.5 Goals bet prove successful.
Richarlison to sting his old employers again?
Brazilian forward Richarlison has been one of Silva's few success stories. The manager was determined to sign him for Everton, having worked with him at Watford, and the 21-year-old has rewarded him with ten league goals this term, including one against Watford at Goodison Park.
At [2.78] in the To Score market, Richarlison is worth backing, especially as he has netted in two of his last four appearances.
Kevin Hatchard 2018-19 Premier League P/L
Back the draw at [3.5]
Back Richarlison to score at [2.78]