Every team approaches the season with confidence and both these sides have every reason to be optimistic due to having a new manager at the helm. Although they are adjusting to the Premier League, these two managers know each other well and have competed against each other on numerous occasions in Italy. It could be a tactical battle at Vicarage Road on Saturday and it will be interesting how each side holds up. During the opening weekend, neither side looked fully comfortable with the new systems being coached. Both Antonio Conte and Walter Mazzarri are tactically astute and it will take time to get their ideas across to their new team.
Watford started their campaign with a draw at Southampton and were perhaps lucky to escape with a point. They started well and took the lead, but then Southampton were the much better side. Mazzarri used a 3-5-2 formation, which suits the Watford squad, but they need a ball carrier to improve their transition play. There are rumours that Roberto Pereyra could be moving to Watford, which would solve those problems. In many of the pre-season previews, Watford were somewhat forgotten and have been written off as relegation candidates. However, Mazzarri looks to have the right idea and if they make one or two quality additions, they will have a dangerous side.
Antonio Conte was the centre of attention on Monday night and he showed that he can make changes to affect the game. He opted to take off Willian and Eden Hazard for Victor Moses and Pedro. It was an odd call at the time, but it paid off and Chelsea managed to score the winning goal. He isn’t afraid to make big calls and that is required at Stamford Bridge. The first indications were good and a lot of players looked much better than they did last season. Oscar and Nemanja Matic were two notable examples. It will take time for Chelsea to return to the title-winning side that they were in 2014/15, but the improvements on Monday were clear.
In the corresponding match from last season, the two sides drew 0-0 in what was an underwhelming contest. They also drew in the match at Stamford Bridge, with the scoreline being 2-2. On that day, Diego Costa scored a brace for the home side, while Troy Deeney and a Gary Cahill (OG) secured Watford a point.
Etienne Capoue’s goal for Watford during their opening day draw to Southampton was his first for the club.
Chelsea are used to starting quickly, as they have secured more points (54) on the opening day that any other side in Premier League history.
Troy Deeney is key to Watford this season and it was a relief when he signed his new contract during the summer. Leicester were keen to sign the striker as a foil for Jamie Vardy, but Watford managed to keep hold of Deeney. Since their promotion, Deeney has looked more than comfortable in the Premier League and his partnership with Odion Ighalo has been a huge success story. Against Southampton, Ighalo looked lost and a shadow of the player he was at the beginning of last season. It is early in the season, but if Ighalo has a poor start to the new campaign, it puts more pressure on Deeney to perform. As club captain, Deeney is crucial for Watford and he is a cooling influence on the pitch. He is excellent in possession and is the most creative player in the side at the moment. They are likely to get few chances against Chelsea, which underlines the importance that they take the ones that do come their way. If Deeney plays well, Watford have a chance of getting something from the game.
The headline team news from Conte’s first match in charge was his decision to not start Cesc Fabregas. As a result, Oscar was given a prominent role in the centre of midfield. The Brazilian has been linked with a move away all summer, but it now looks like he has a future at the club and he played very well against West Ham. He was played in a box-to-box midfield role and it suited him. As well as creating a game-high three chances, he made six tackles, which shows that he can work hard without the ball. There were doubts about his ability to fit into Conte’s high-intensity system, but the early indications were good. It will be interesting to see how Conte sets up away from home, having used two defensive midfielders in the opening fixture. In this set-up, Oscar is crucial to the transition phase. If he sets up the same way against Watford, the Brazilian needs to play well to help the side to back-to-back wins.
New signing Isaac Success is back in contention after a muscle strain and he could be involved on Saturday. Brice Dja Djedje won’t be available to make his debut until September as he is suffering from a foot injury. Ben Watson will be missing through suspension after his red card during the club’s opening match against Southampton.
Kurt Zouma will be missing until October, which creates a shortage at the back. Chelsea need to bring in another centre-back as they are only one injury away from a crisis in that position. Cesc Fabregas didn’t feature during the opening match, but he could be in contention to play a part this weekend.
Watford have been undervalued by some and they have the basis of a good team. They need to make one or two additions before the window closes, but exciting times are ahead for the club. This match against Chelsea is a tough test and one that I expect them to fail as the Blues will have too much attacking threat for them to deal with. These aren’t the fixtures that Watford need to get anything from, but I expect them to put up a fight and be tough to beat. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa looked dangerous during Chelsea’s opening match and the quality gap will make the difference.
Watford 1-2 Chelsea