Ahead of today's trip to Vicarage Road, we quizzed a fan of the Hornets on their thoughts and predictions...
We spoke to Bradley Hayden, founder of @WatfordFCBlog, to find out a supporter's opinion on the game and his side's season...
How are you feeling ahead of the game? What kind of game are you expecting?
I’m expecting a really tough game but I’m surprisingly quietly confident. Watford have showcased this season they can give anyone a match on their day. Just ask some of the other so called ‘big boys’. We’ve comfortably beaten Liverpool 3-0 at Vicarage Road and battled to earn a deserved point against Chelsea on Boxing Day. We’ve narrowly lost to Manchester United and recently Tottenham Hotspur, but we arguably should have walked away from those games with a point. If you’d said at the start of the season, we would be walking away from matches against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur and being left disappointed at not getting a result, I would have thought you were mad!
City are an excellent side and arguably one of, if not the best side in the division. We gave a good account of ourselves earlier this season at the Etihad, despite losing 2-0, but we’ve come a long way since August, so this could prove to be a tough test for City.
How do you expect Watford to line-up? Who will play and in what formation?
I’d expect us to line up in our usual 4-4-2 formation. In goal will most probably be Heurelho Gomes who has been in good form so far this season and his goal will most likely be protected by Allan Nyom, Craig Cathcart, Miguel Britos and Jose Holebas, who is set to step in for the suspended Nathan Ake. Etienne Capoue and Ben Watson will line up as our midfield anchors, whilst Almen Abdi and Jose Manuel Jurado are likely to start out wide. Up front will be Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. They’ve caused defences a number of problems this season and have effortlessly made the step-up to the Premier League.
Where do you think the key battles will take place on the pitch? Who should both teams be wary of?
I think the key battles will occur in defence. It will be interesting to see how both sides cope with the obvious threat their attacking players provide.
We’ve got to be wary of the obvious threat that Aguero, De Bruyne and Sterling provide for Manchester City. On their day, they are the best front three in the league without a doubt and the Hornets’ defence will have to be on top of their game to keep them quiet. Everyone knows what they can do and if we want any chance of getting a result, we need to ensure they are kept at arm’s length. Also, I feel Quique Sanchez Flores needs to be wary of Yaya Toure. He really is a beast and is one of the best midfielders in the world, so Flores needs to ensure Toure gets barely any time to think when he’s on the ball.
City should be wary of our prolific front men, Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. They’ve caused defences a number of problems this season and have scored 20 goals between them so far. Their link-up play is superb and in my opinion, they are one of the best striker partnerships in the league as they have an intuitive understanding of one another. They both look for one another and have good awareness of where each other are during the ninety minutes. Both Deeney and Ighalo complement each other so well and our best attacking play usually comes through them. They’ve scored a large chunk of our goals this season and will give anyone a game.
Another player City need to watch out for is Etienne Capoue. He’s been very impressive for the Golden Boys since moving to Vicarage Road in the summer transfer window, following a disappointing spell at Tottenham Hotspur. The Frenchman is like our midfield general, given that he does a lot of dirty work for the team alongside Ben Watson and a lot of our play usually goes through him. He has the makings to be a top player, so I for one am hoping he can continue his good form against City on Saturday!
Odion Ighalo scored 30 goals for Watford in 2015, more than anyone in England. What’s it like to have a player of that ability in your team, knowing that he will more than likely score when the opportunity arises?
It’s great. He was prolific in 2015 and the Nigerian is a real poacher. If he’s got the ball in the oppositions penalty area, he will most probably find the back of the net, due to the run of form he’s on. The transformation in Ighalo since he first moved to Vicarage Road is unbelievable. A little over a year ago, he wasn’t even a guaranteed starter and at one point in November 2014, he was sitting in the stands. But his all-round game has improved massively over the past year. He has a bit of pace about him and he’s fairly strong as well, making him a good all round striker. The Nigerian international also has a bit of flair and he has earned a trademark at Vicarage Road for his ‘scoops’ this season. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mamadou Sakho, John O’Shea, James Collins, John Stones and Phil Jagielka are just some of his victims this season!
Watford currently sit just outside the European spots. If you hold onto your players in the transfer window, how confident would you be of securing a place in Europe for the 2016/17 season?
I would never have thought we would even be talking about Watford potentially securing a European spot!
At the moment, I think talk about Europe is a bit far-fetched. We’re doing tremendously well don’t get me wrong, but like Leicester, I think our main aim is still survival and we just need to get to the magical 40-point mark as quickly as possible. Despite our good start to the season, I think everyone at Vicarage Road would still take a 17th place finish right now. No one expected us to do as well as we have done. I think most Watford fans thought we would stay up, but they never thought we would be in the top half of the table at this stage of the season.
If we get to March and we are still in a European spot, then I think we can be classed as serious European contenders. But at the minute, most of us are still just enjoying the ride and are thinking about a comfortable mid-table finish.
What are your views on City as a Club? Is your opinion shared by the majority of Hornets fans?
I think City are a well-run club who are certainly a force to be reckoned with. The owners have revitalised the club for the better and the facilities on offer are second to none. They have a nice stadium with a good fan base. I’d like to see a couple more of the youth products graduate through to the side, but on the whole, I think City are a well-run club.
Dare to cast a score prediction? Where will both teams finish this season?
I’ll say a hard fought 2-1 win for Manchester City. City will go onto win the League in my opinion, whilst Watford will have a strong mid-table finish.