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EPL: Watford v Chelsea Preview

Our football writer previews the enticing contest between Watford and Chelsea.

Two Italian managers go head to head this weekend as the Hornets host the Blues. Mazzari’s side will probably feel like they threw away a golden opportunity to get all three points against Southampton. Ben Watson’s dismissal turned the game around completely. Chelsea needed to wait for a last-gasp winner from resident bad boy Diego Costa to celebrate their first win of the season.

What was perhaps even more exhilarating to Chelsea fans was the incandescent celebrations of their new manager. Conte- an implacable figure with the media- becomes utterly demented on that touchline and his enthusiasm could just well be the thing that was missing at the Bridge last season.

Watford v Chelsea | Saturday 20 August | Vicarage Road | 16:00

To Win (90 Mins)Watford 4/1 | Draw 26/10  | Chelsea 7/10
Mazzari’s side seemed to have things under control against Southampton. That was until Ben Watson was burnt for pace by the admittedly swift Shane Long. Clearly Watford will be looking to contain those dynamic players in behind Costa. Costa looks reinvigorated and will clearly offer considerable nuisance value, but it will be the likes of Willian and Eden Hazard that will trouble the Hornets. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them play with a 3-5-2 formation that will essentially serve as a 5-3-2 for large portions of the game.

Behrami and Capoue will need to remain competitive with the robust presence of N’Golo Kante. The tough-tackling Frenchman has the ability to dominate this Watford midfield and it will be interesting to see how Mazzari looks to combat him. Deeney and Ighalo will look to resurrect the two striker principle and disrupt the combination of Cahill and Terry. With their pace and athleticism, I could very well see them causing the ageing duo some real problems. The real question is how they are able to handle the transition in midfield. Mazzari will likely look to adopt a more direct approach and hope for some old-fashioned knockdowns to occur.

Antonio Conte’s first game in charge saw a dominance in possession and tempo that was sorely lacking last season. Oscar – a man enigmatically alienated under the leadership of Jose Mourinho – looked fresh and creative.  More importantly, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa looked like the two players that contributed hugely to catapulting the Blues to the title two seasons back. Hazard- whose talents went inexplicitly awry last season – is starting to actually scare defenders again.  Costa- perhaps lucky to stay on the field after a cynical foul on Adrian- was combative and looks more athletic this campaign.

Conte, in the very best Italian tradition, will likely go with the same side- hoping to develop a consistency in selection. Watford are very well organized and will likely look to physically engage Chelsea. I wouldn’t expect the wing-backs to press too high, which will see Willian and Hazard with their fair share of possession. It will be up to them to break down Watford’s resistance. If Costa is switched on and able to occupy the backline, their task may be made slightly easier.

Verdict: Chelsea (7/10)
Chelsea looked organized and impressive against an ebullient West Ham side. I expect them to edge this one.  

Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets

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