Watford (A): Pre-match thoughts, team news & predicted line-ups

The hammering at Anfield wasn’t much fun, but I’m more concerned about Rafa Benitez’s post match comments and demeanour than the result – what else did we honestly expect?

We know Joselu isn’t up to it as it is, never mind when he’s up against Virgin Van Dijk, we were up against arguably the most frightening attacking trio in world football right now, and a side who we played at the worst possible time – with them on a high and playing their big guns while we were forced to rotate with one eye on Watford.

As I say, I’m not sure what else people expected in the circumstances at Anfield (it’s not like we didn’t try?), but I will be expecting more this weekend against Watford. Given the fixtures we’re set to face over the coming weeks, this is one of our most winnable games – and it still looks like a very tough game to me.

We beat them in the home tie a few months ago to finally get our first win on the board, but they created plenty of chances and have the ability to blow us away if we’re not at it at the back.

Preferred XI

As ever, here’s the team I’d like to see, followed by the side I expect Rafa to go with:

First things first, I think I’d leave Lascelles out for this one. He doesn’t look right and has made errors that have (or almost have) cost us dearly in just about every one of our last five games. It would’ve been barmy to suggest that we wouldn’t want the skipper starting this time last season, but on current form it’s clear that Schar and Fernandez should be starting.

Ki quality and calmness in the middle will continue to be a big miss, so the need to get Shelvey fit and firing has never been greater. If he’s not ready, I’d be inclined to give Longstaff a shot. Hayden runs around and ‘gets stuck in’, but we need someone who’s happy to get on the ball and try things – and I think Longstaff has it in his locker to bring some of that to the team.

Out wide it’s anyone’s guess. Aside from Murphy – who rarely gets a chance these days – the likes of Ritchie, Atsu and Kenedy all seem to huff and puff but fail to offer consistent results or any meaningful threat. That said, Rondon will be licking his lips if Ritchie can put in some of the crosses he did from the left at Anfield.

Predicted NUFC team – (5-2-2-1) – Dubravka – Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett – Diame, Shelvey – Atsu, Perez – Rondon. 

The Opposition

Here’s some of my ‘ones to watch’ in Watford’s side:

Gerard Deulofeu – He’s been playing in a more central forward role in recent weeks and has found the net in two of his last three. He’s very direct, has bags of pace and is the sort of elusive player our big centre-backs could struggle to contain on his day.

Roberto Pereyra – Quality wise, players like Pereyra could be the difference in this one. He has the ability to unlock to door – whether it be a key pass or a quality finish – so he’s one we MUST keep a real close eye on today.

Adrian Mariappa – Watford fans don’t seem to rate this lad, and it looks like he’ll come in for the injured Kabasele. He’s just shy of 6ft and isn’t the biggest, so Rondon could have some joy here – especially if Ritchie can put in the sort of delivery Joselu failed to convert at Anfield.

Abdoulaye Doucoure – One of the best players outside the top 6 for me. It will be a big battle between him and Diame – and who ever is partnering Mo will need to help him out more than Hayden did at Liverpool or we’ll get overrun again.

Jose Holebas – Not the best defensively and always good for a yellow card, but a brilliant left-back from an attacking perspective. With the likes of Deeney to hit up top, we need to make sure he isn’t allowed too much space to swing crosses into the box.

Predicted Watford XI – (4-2-2-2) – Foster – Femenia, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas – Capoue, Doucoure – Pereyra, Sema – Deulofeu, Deeney.

To hear some thoughts from a Watford fan, see our ‘Opposition Opinion’ piece here, featuring our chat with @HornetShane.

Team news

Shelvey has made the trip with the squad and has been deemed fit by Benitez, but whether he starts is another matter. Clark and Darlow have been ruled out while Ki is on international duty ahead of the Asian Cup.

For Watford, first-team centre-back Kabasele is out after colliding with the post against Chelsea on Boxing Day, with Andre Gray and Will Hughes likely to miss out as well for the hosts.

Match Prediction

This time last year Rafa got us some huge away wins at West Ham and Stoke to set us up nicely for the new year, but I can’t say I’m confident of a big result here.

I can’t see us keeping Watford out and I’m not convinced we’ll score more than once. We’ve scored just three in our last 6 and have managed just two goals or more in just THREE of our 19 games this season – so it feels like we must keep clean sheets to win games of football these days.

Heart says draw – head says they go in at half-time 2-0 down and struggle to claw it back.

Prediction: Watford 2-1 Newcastle

Howay the lads!

(Fancy writing for us? Send any articles/ideas over to us at [email protected] & we’ll get back to you!)

About Olly Hawkins

Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

39 thoughts on “Watford (A): Pre-match thoughts, team news & predicted line-ups

  1. I would be tempted to go for Shelvey and Longstaff in the middle and give Diame a rest. He’s played pretty much every game this season. Hayden and Joselu I would put on a bus to anywhere that isn’t Watford. I think we may grab something but it will be a defensive and scrappy 1-0 to us …


  2. Who the hell knows how we get on today – can’t even predict what team he’ll put out today so god knows.
    My gut says we get beat. We don’t pull off unexpected results anymore, we don’t get the game changing results (or when we do it’s against us). We may pull off a smash and grab or play a bore draw. But they have good players, and I expect Watford to have the lions share of possession and all the important stats being in their favour.
    Not looking forward to today one bit.


  3. Sharpy – that could have been written about the home game with them so there is some hope.
    I just can’t see them missing as many chances as that.
    If I’d been Rafa i’d have picked Schar instead of Lascelles and Longstaff ahead of Hayden. Shelvey on later.


  4. So it looks like 442 today with Rondon back and Perez up front with him. Hayden and Diame in midfield and Kenedy dropped altogether. Longstaff not even on the bench… 😱😣.


  5. Uninspiring starting 11. Back to a 4-2-3-1 that has done very little for us so far. Atsu and Hayden 🤦🏼‍♂️ Should be near the first team for me.

    A win today takes us to 20pts, which seemed highly unobtainable afew months back, but we’d all have been chuffed with that going into the New Year. I still have little confidence we will get that win today, but fingers crossed 🤞🏻


  6. Would of liked Schar in the starting 11 tbh. Lascelles has been poor last 3 games save for one fine block v Fulham.

    Anyway, HWTL
    Here goes nothing


  7. Looks like another 9-0-1 formation. Probably under 30% possession against bloody Watford. Shows how far we have sunk but we live in hope. I really am getting sick of this boring football. The likes of Wolves and Watford are more entertaining. Sell up Fatman.


  8. Rafa has put a self-imposed radio silence on transfer talk. Even the rumours have ended. Has he given up or do we have players almost over the line as Pards would say?


  9. Eric Sykes:
    Rafa has put a self-imposed radio silence on transfer talk. Even the rumours have ended. Has he given up or do wehave players almost over the line as Pards would say?

    not a chance Eric.
    No sell and no players and soon no Rafa.


  10. Now I am pissed off. The commentator on the Spurs game said that they have done a deal so that Son can stay with them until after their Man U game on January 13. It means he will only miss 3 games because of this stupid Asian Cup.

    Now tell me why we couldn’t do the same for Ki and Muto?


  11. To think the people up above at the club think Rondon is **** and was a waste of a loan. It’s almost like Rafa knows more than themS


  12. This Spurs team are fun to watch. Our game is not on and I have a terrible cold picked up on a long flight.

    What I don’t like about Spurs are their songs. That stupid slow singing of “when the Spurs go marching in” is lame. And so is “he’s one of our own”.

    See we scored.


  13. It has come to this. We are supposed to be happy eeking out a 1-0 lead at mid-table Watford and judging by The Chronicle being outplayed. I will try to cheer up if we get something but I refuse to listen to Ando on Radio Newcastle and get even more depressed.


  14. Can someone tell me what the little man figurine lapel badge is that Rafa always wears, and some other managers..?

    Well a decent first half, although it’s clear that Hayden can’t be bothered. Great cross from Ritchie for the goal. That’s what happens when you have a striker on the pitch instead of a donkey..


  15. I found out… it’s to support Prostate Cancer! Apparently, one man dies every 45 minutes from Prostate Cancer… wow! 😱😳


  16. Dubai Toon:
    I found out… it’s to support Prostate Cancer! Apparently, one man dies every 45 minutes from Prostate Cancer… wow!

    beat me to it, was just about to tell you that. Shocking isn’t it.


  17. Crap, I just knew we would need a second but we just seem incapable of holding a lead or scoring a second goal… we really needed those 3 points with the run we have coming up. We will be very close to or in the bottom 3 in a few weeks.


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