Chelsea will need to get back to winning ways on Saturday, with the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League heating up. They welcome Watford to Stamford Bridge, who are low on confidence. This is a big test of Frank Lampard and the inexperienced manager will be hoping to show that he can get things back on course following a very poor performance at West Ham. The spending done already shows that the Blues are looking to become title contenders once more. However, they need to finish this season off strongly first.
There are only three points separating four clubs in the race for a Champions League place. Lampard will be ruing the missed opportunity during the week, as they could have moved above Leicester City into third. There is no more room for inconsistency, with Wolves and Manchester United in rampant form. This is a match that the Blues should be winning. The big concern for supporters is the frailties from set pieces. Nigel Pearson will be aware of that and it will be targeted by the visitors. There simply must be an improvement in the Chelsea defence. If there isn’t, their position in the top four will be under threat.
Watford have taken only one point since the restart and they are living dangerously just one place above the bottom three. There was an initial surge up the table under Pearson, but the performances have been disappointing since the restart. Their next three fixtures look winnable following their trip to Stamford Bridge. Although this isn’t one they are expected to win, there needs to be an improvement in performance. Chelsea have shown weaknesses over the last seven days. The Hornets need to be positive and try to target them.
Willian has become the first Premier League player to score in all 12 months of the calendar year.
Watford have now won just one of their last ten Premier League matches. This came against champions Liverpool.
The USA international has added a spark to the Chelsea attack in recent weeks. There have been inconsistent periods since his arrival in England, but he now looks ready to nail down a regular starting position. He has scored twice since the restart and his overall contribution has allowed him to stand out. Against West Ham, his direct approach caused them a lot of problems and he was the player that was fouled in the build up for both of the goals. Pulisic now has seven Premier League goals during his debut season in an injury hit campaign. His own personal aim will be to reach 10 before the end of the campaign, helping the team to a top four finish in the process. Watford have looked shaky at the back in recent weeks. Southampton caused them a lot of issues last weekend, with Danny Ings’ directness the main threat. Pulisic is similar in his movement, as he is excellent at finding an angle to get a shot away. He could be the player to do the damage on Saturday.
It has been difficult to find too many positives for Watford this season. They have been battling at the bottom of the table for the entire campaign. However, they have shown their shrewdness in the transfer window with the signing of Ismaila Sarr. The former Rennes winger could be the key to their survival, as he looks most likely to score the goals. The 22-year-old has contributed five goals and three assists, with his most eye-catching performance coming against Liverpool. He scored a brace against the champions. Pearson will be hoping that he can thrive against another top-six team. Chelsea leave a lot of space at the back and the pace of Sarr could cause them all sorts of problems.
Fikayo Tomori could be back to feature in the matchday squad. Given the poor performances of the centre backs against West Ham, he could be pushing for recall. Olivier Giroud could be in line for a start.
Watford have no fresh injury concerns. Daryl Janmaat, Gerard Deulofeu and Isaac Success are all long term absentees.
This is a huge test of Chelsea’s mental strength following their defeat to West Ham. They need to show their winning mentality and beat a poor Watford team. They have the better players, but their defensive frailties are a huge concern for Frank Lampard and his staff. That said, they should be able to get back to winning ways against a team that have shown little since the resumption.
Chelsea 2-0 Watford