For the first time since early December, Manchester City are going into their Premier League game at the top of the table. The opponents are Watford, who have lost just twice in their previous 10 games, scoring 15 goals. As the pressure in the title race begins to intensify, overcoming the test that Watford might pose is now hugely critical.
Javi Gracia’s Hornets have won four of their last five, spearheaded by striker Troy Deeney, who has contributed towards five goals in his last three games. Gerard Deulofeu has the same statistics and could form a seriously dangerous partnership up front with Deeney – the two compliment each other well and have played a huge role in getting the Hornets to 8th place in the league.
More impressively, Watford’s position in the league follows an incredibly low-spend summer – just £25 million was spent on incoming players, compared to Wolves’ – with whom they are level on points – £95 million. West Ham, just below Watford in the table, have spent £90 million themselves. Surely this speaks to the quality of Javi Gracia as a manager.
Despite having a poor record against the top six this season – losing seven games out of eight against the big teams – Gracia drills his players well and forces them to work, especially against tougher opposition. While at Málaga, no one had a better record than him against Barcelona.
“The key? Work, work, work,” Marcelino Torrontegui, a friend and assistant at Málaga said of him to the Guardian. “He was methodical, incredible. Hours and hours and hours.”
Perhaps this blend of diligence at the back and dynamism in attack will prove a stern test for City.
The Blues will be relying on a wave of momentum following eight consecutive wins, including three against top six sides. However, big teams haven’t been as much of a threat to City this season compared to smaller, mid-table sides such as Watford. Three of our four defeats this season have been to sides outside of the top six – an unnerving statistic.
City, however, should take comfort in reminding themselves that they are in a fantastic position – top of the league, with a trophy lift in recent memory, and in a good position in both other cup competitions. 13 goals scored in five games isn’t a bad record, and only one goal has gone against them in that time as well.
Watford will be encouraged by the fact that every player in their squad is fit for tomorrow. Gracia’s men should be ready and prepared for everything the Blues can throw at them.
City are also reinforced by the return of Fabian Delph, although Oleksandr Zinchenko’s stellar form means this probably won’t affect Pep’s team very much, if at all. Fernandinho, John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, and Kevin de Bruyne are all missing, meaning Vincent Kompany should gain a starting place following his return to the team against West Ham a couple of weeks ago.
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