Watford vs Crystal Palace Preview: Can Hornets maintain 100 per cent record?

Watford vs Crystal Palace Preview: Can Hornets maintain 100 per cent record?

Watford host Crystal Palace at Vicarage Road this weekend with hope of maintaining their winning start to the Premier League season.

Conor de Smith

Watford host Crystal Palace at Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon with hope of extending their winning start to the Premier League season. 

The Hornets are one of three sides to harbour a 100 per cent record this season after wins against Brighton and Burnley respectively. 

Palace, meanwhile, secured a victory over newly-promoted Fulham on the opening weekend before losing to Liverpool on Monday.

Winning start for Watford

After wins at home to Brighton and away to Burnley, Watford have made their best start to a top-flight season since 1982.

A third consecutive win would be unprecedented in the club's history but it won't come easy against a talented Palace side.

The Hornets have won just  two of their last 16 matches against Palace in all competitions. To combat this, Javi Gracia is likely to stick with the side who have delivered five goals in two games, with Nathaniel Chalobah and Gerard Deulofeu not ready for Sunday’s home match.

Can Palace get back to winning ways?

Much of the build-up for this game has focussed on Roy Hodgson's message for club mascot Harry the Hornet after provoking Zaha with a dive in this fixture two years ago. 

Hodgson will more likely use the, what they feel, unjust defeat to Liverpool earlier in the week as motivation to get back to winning ways in Hertfordshire this weekend. 

The London club will have to attempt to deal with a flourishing strike partnership between Troy Deeney and Andre Gray without the promising Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who is suspended after seeing red on Monday night.

Wan-Bissaka suspended

Watford striker Stefano Okaka is back in full training after sustaining a leg injury which required surgery but may not be risked.

Miguel Britos, Nathaniel Chalobah, Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu are all unavailable.

Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka is suspended for one game after a red card in the defeat to Liverpool, with Joel Ward set to come in.

Connor Wickham is nearing a return after 21 months out with a knee injury.

“You need to adapt to Zaha”

In a pre-match press conference that included talks about formation and a blossoming strike partnership, Gracia spoke of the threat that Palace will bring and their plans to deal with Zaha.

“All the games against Palace are always very close,” said Gracia. “There are not many chances. I think this next game will not be different. We try to keep our level, keep our style of play and play at home, with support of our fans, we feel better.”

“Our plan is always different,” he said. “You play against someone [Zaha] and you need to adapt. We are going to play against Palace with two good strikers. They score a lot on the counterattack and you have to adapt different things. It's not something different because we play against a special player or not.”

Palace’s Jeffrey Schlupp, scorer in the win away at Fulham, is similarly wary of the opposition and has noticed some similarities between the two sides.

“They’ve started well with two wins out of two and I am sure they will be really confident at home,” he said.

“Even though they are a good team, I also class us as a good team and I can see a tight contest. I feel we are very similar in playing styles, evenly matched and it should be a good game with us hopefully coming out with the three points.”

Predicted XIs:

Watford - Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Hughes, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra; Deeney, Gray.

Palace - Hennessey; Van Aanholt, Sakho, Tomkins, Ward; Schlupp, Milivojevic, MaCarthur, Townsend; Zaha, Benteke.