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Match Previews

Ask the expert: Watford (H)

19 April 2021

Despite a defeat on Saturday to neighbours Luton Town, Watford arrive at Carrow Road in sparkling form. A run of seven wins from nine games has put them on the verge of promotion to the Premier League, but what about the title?

They know a victory against Norwich this evening will close the gap between them and the Canaries to five points with three games to go. However, while they can't seal automatic promotion at Carrow Road either, another victory would put them very close to the Premier League.

So, with that in mind, will they come out and attack the game? Do they have ambitions for the title as well as promotion? And who are the players to watch out for? We put all of those questions and more to Ryan Gray, who covers Xico Muñoz's side for the Watford Observer. Watford have been on an incredible run of form, having won 11 of their last 14 matches. What have been the key factors behind that run?

RG: A change of formation has really helped, putting key players back in their preferred positions and getting the best out of them. However, what’s really helped has been the togetherness and team spirit that the new manager has undoubtedly given them that was certainly missing before.

XicoMunoz.jpg Xisco Muñoz was appointed just before the two sides met on December 26. How impressed have you been with him and what changes has he made to improve Watford’s season?

RG: He’s adopted a much more attacking style than they were playing under Vladimir Ivic and it’s really benefited the team. They seem much happier and it’s definitely translating into both results and some exciting performances. Watford have lots of experience in their side with the likes of Troy Deeney, Tom Cleverley and Ben Foster. How key do you think that could be going into some pressure games between now and the end of the season?

RG: It’s obviously important having players like that in the dressing room, although those three have been absent from the starting XI for a while now for one or two reasons. They still have other influential and experienced people around like Carlos Sanchez, Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah, so the club clearly has players who know what it takes to play in the topflight. The younger players have clearly gained a lot by playing with those more experienced heads.

Watford2.jpg Watford are eight points adrift of Norwich City in the table. Will they be viewing the match at Carrow Road as chance of to topple Norwich at the top or are they concentrating just on making it into the top two? 

RG: If they can go up as champions it’ll be a bonus, but I don’t think it’s necessarily their aim. As long as they seal an automatic spot they’ll be pleased. Anything less from this position would be seen as a collapse. Watford normally line up in a 4-3-3 formation under Muñoz. With that in mind are we likely to see them push forward at Carrow Road more, or sit back and try to hit on the counter like they did in the first game?

RG: They’re unlikely to sit back and invite pressure. They’re very attacking, particularly down the right. I’d expect to see both full backs pushing forward, making overlapping runs and combining with the wide attacking players.

SierraAlta.jpg Watford have the best defensive record in the Championship, having conceded 27 goals. Who have the key performers at the back been?

RG: Francisco Sierralta has been something of a revelation. He was a relatively unknown quantity when he arrived, but he’s been exceptionally solid since making his way into the first team. He’s formed a good partnership with William Troost-Ekong who can be just as good. What other players should Norwich City be on the lookout for and are there any key players likely to miss the game through injury?

RG: Ismaila Sarr is the obvious one to watch, although Joao Pedro is a real talent as well. At the moment, there are a few big names missing through injury like Troy Deeney. Tom Cleverley might not be back just yet either, although he’s expected to make a return soon. Other than that, there’s more or less a clean bill of health for the rest of the squad.

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