Watford vs Middlesbrough Preview: Both sides looking to build on cup victories

Watford welcome the visit of Middlesbrough this weekend in a game which sees both sides attempting to climb further away from the relegation zone.

Hornets need to find form

Watford’s 2-0 victory over Burton Albion last weekend in the FA Cup was their first win in almost a month. The Hornets have struggled in the league lately with just one win in their last eight fixtures.

Walter Mazzarri’s side started 2017 slowly suffering a 1-4 hammering at home to title challengers Tottenham before falling to defeat two days later with a 2-0 loss away at Stoke.

The Hornets have also scored just two goals in their last five Premier League games meaning they have picked up just one point from 15 - a home draw against Crystal Palace.

However, Mazzarri will be hoping that the victory over Burton Albion will have instilled his side with some confidence, particularly in front of goal, and now they can build on that victory in the league.

Middlesbrough also looking for league form

Middlesbrough also progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup with a comfortable 3-0 victory over last season’s Championship play-off runners-up Sheffield Wednesday.

This was Boro’s first win since before Christmas having suffered back-to-back league defeats against Burnley and Manchester United before earning a point at home to Leicester in their only league game in 2017.

Middlesbrough’s away form this season has been an issue however with just one victory in their ten games on the road – a 2-1 victory over Sunderland back in August.

Boro will need to improve their performances away from home if they are to overcome Watford, however with Alvaro Negredo and new signing Rudy Gestede to choose from up top, their fans will be expecting them to get on the scoresheet.

Team news

Watford loan signing Tom Cleverley could be set to start his first game for the club since 2010. Heurelho Gomes and Jose Holebas both return from injury.

The Hornets also welcome back Stefan Okaka, Juan Zuniga and Valon Behrami.

Middlesbrough’s January signing Rudy Gestede could be given his first Premier League appearance since signing from Aston Villa.

Antonio Barragan and Gaston Ramirez will miss the game but Victor Valdes and Viktor Fischer are available for Boro. Daniel Ayala will serve the first of his three-game suspension following his red card against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup last weekend.

What the managers said

Watford head coach Walter Mazzarri said regarding the death of Graham Taylor: "I know what he meant to the fans and the club and I know he had beaten all the records for Watford while he was here.

"We already have many reasons to win the game on Saturday - and on top of this we now have Graham Taylor.

"Together with the fans we know we have to give everything to gain the maximum result and dedicate a win to a great person and a symbol of the club."

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka confirmed that he is looking to expand his attacking options in the transfer market. “The position we need to strengthen is the wings. I think we need more pace, especially when we have the ball.

“The aim, once again, is to finish the transfer window with a better squad.”

The last time the teams met

The last time Watford and Middlesbrough came head-to-head was three months ago as the Hornets managed to come away from the Riverside Stadium with all three points thanks to a fine strike from Jose Holebas.

However, this is the first time Watford have hosted Middlesbrough in the Premier League since 2007 when Middlesbrough beat the Hornets 4-1 with goals from Mark Viduka, George Boateng and Fabio Rochemback.

Middlesbrough did visit Vicarage Road in the Championship but were defeated 2-0 in their last trip as Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo scored in Watford’s push for promotion.

Predicted Starting XIs

Watford: Gomes; Kaboul, Prodl, Britos, Holebas; Behrami, Cleverley, Capoue, Zungia; Okaka, Deeney.

Boro: Valdes; Barragan, Chambers, Gibson, Fabio; de Roon, Clayton, Forshaw, Traore; Gestede, Negredo.