Unbeaten in five but still bottom of the table, Crystal Palace today host a Watford side that has excelled under new boss Marco Silva.
The Eagles have embarked on an improvement of their own since Roy Hodgson replaced Frank de Boer in September, earning all their 11 points in his three months in charge. The South Londoners’ recent run has given them a chance of survival that previously seemed impossible after the de Boer horror show. They even climbed off the bottom of the table last week but returned after Saturday’s controversy-filled 2-2 draw against AFC Bournemouth, in which Christian Benteke missed a last-minute penalty having grabbed the ball from usual spot-kick taker Luka Milivojević.
Meanwhile, Portuguese boss Silva has revamped the Hornets and reversed a Vicarage Road atmosphere that was toxic last season under Walter Mazzarri. A number of shrewd additions, including winger Richarlison, have added an extra edge to a squad that was largely very dull in 2016/17. Watford are ninth but are currently on their worst run of the season having earned just a point in their previous three games.
Silva has shunned the anti-foreign manager rhetoric with his management this season, following his near heroics at Hull City last campaign, and will be a contender for manager of the season. A move to Everton to replace Ronald Koeman at one stage looked likely and his reputation is increasing, but instead Silva is capable of taking Watford to a new level and does not yet need a move to a big club.
Palace vs Watford
Palace and Watford have a very strange loose rivalry, perhaps better described as a weird hatred for each other, stemmed from their mirroring recent history. The two clubs have generally occupied the same divisions in tandem for the previous two decades and have been involved in several classic ties.
Palace’s two victories at the new Wembley Stadium have both been against Watford.
defeated the Hornets in the 2013 Championship Play-off Final to win promotion to the Premier League before beating the same opponent in 2016’s FA Cup semi-final.
Wilfried Zaha often finds himself heavily booed by Watford fans for his part in the penalty that won the Play-off Final, scored by Kevin Phillips, and has won other penalties against the Hornets since.
The Eagles won the latest meeting 1-0 thanks to Troy Deeney’s own goal at Selhurst Park in March. The previous fixture was a 1-1 draw at Vicarage Road.
The fixture has been played 115 times since the first meeting in 1921; Palace have won 48 to Watford’s 41.
Mamadou Sakho could be out for “weeks, not days” according to Hodgson after the centre-back suffered a calf injury in Palace’s 2-2 draw with Bournemouth. The Frenchman joins fellow defender Joel Ward in missing the game, also because of a calf injury. Timothy Fosu-Mensah will continue in place of Ward while Scott Dann will slot into centre-back having replaced Sakho and scored Palace’s second goal on Saturday. Connor Wickham and Damien Delaney are the Eagles’ only long-term absentees.
Watford defender Marvin Zeegelaar begins a three-match suspension for his red card against Burnley at the weekend. The Hornets appealed the ban unsuccessfully and the left-back will now miss the game. José Holebas could come in at left-back in his place.