As the curtains are drawn on 2016, the Premier League juggernaut will see the back of another year of drama, excitement and downright unpredictability which seemed to reach a climax when Leicester City won the league finishing ten points above Arsenal in May.
The final round of fixtures concluding the first half of the campaign will see Watford welcome top four chasing Tottenham Hotspur. Watford sit 10th in the league with 22 points on board from 18 games. With 3 wins and 5 defeats in the last ten games in the Premier League, Walter Mazzari’s side haven’t been able to build on their impressive start primarily due to the lack of goals, especially from their center-forwards Ighalo and Deeney. They come off the back of a 1-1 draw against relegation battling Crystal Palace at home but will have to do very well to get anything out of a strong and consistent Tottenham Hotspur against whom they have never managed to win in the Premier League era.
For Spurs, it’s all about keeping the pace with the teams above them. Pochettino’s side have never slipped below fifth since game-week 9 and their record in 2016 has been nothing short of impressive, raking in 71 points, from 37 league games – only Chelsea have managed more. Spurs will make the short trip to Vicarage Road following a largely impressive win at St.Mary’s, a 4-1 demolition of the home side after going behind inside two minutes. With only a point standing between them and fourth-placed Arsenal and a game against league-leaders Chelsea on the horizon, the away side simply cannot afford a slip-up on New Year’s Eve if they were to stay in the race to finish in the Champions League spots.
Watford are set to miss Daryl Janmaat and Valon Behrami for three weeks after they picked up muscular injuries. They join Roberto Pereyra (knee), Isaac Success (muscular), Miguel Britos (suspended), Adrian Mariappa (knee), Ben Watson (family problems) and Stefano Okaka on the sidelines. Craig Cathcart is available but unable to last 90 minutes, says Watford boss Walter Mazzarri.
Tottenham Hotspur are still without Erik Lamela (hip) and Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen are both suspended. But the big boost is the return of Toby Alderweireld who, according to their manager, has recovered from a virus and is in contention for Sunday.
- Watford have lost their opening league game of a calendar year for five successive years now (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016).
- Tottenham have won each of their last four Premier League games on New Year’s Day, most recently beating Chelsea 5-3 in 2015.
- The Hornets have conceded 12 more goals this season (30) than they had after 18 Premier League games last season (18).
- Harry Kane has scored seven goals in his last eight Premier League appearances in January.
Troy Deeney – Watford
With 4 goals and 4 assists to his name, Troy Deeney is again the most valuable player for the Hornets this campaign. The skipper scored his 100th goal for the club in the previous game and looks to be the only forward who has delivered for them in 2016/17 with Ighalo massively struggling to add goals. His leadership and goal output has been vital for the club in these last 18 months since promotion to the top division and will continue to be for Mazzari’s side to consolidate their position as an established Premier League club.
Victor Wanyama – Tottenham Hotspur
Victor Wanyama has proved to be one of the few Summer arrivals that has taken to Pochettino’s system like duck to water albeit for obvious reasons. The midfielder has proved to be a rock in front of Tottenham’s back four playing a vital role in what is undeniably the best defensive unit in the league and has been for the last 12 months. He’s made 18 appearances scoring twice and creating 19 chances from open play. With Vertonghen and Walker facing a suspension, it’s imperative that Wanyama is at his best to allow his more creative teammates to make the difference on Sunday.
Tottenham do seem to have enough going forward to continue their winning streak.
Watford 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur