Everton vs Watford Preview: Silva aims to get one over on Hornets as Blues aim for stellar start
Photo: Getty Images - Everton FC/Tony McArdle

Everton play host to Watford on Saturday, with Marco Silva looking to get his first result over his former club and the Blues' first win of the new Premier League campaign.

The simmering feud between the Blues and the Hornets has been well documented ever since Everton had their sights firmly set on Silva replacing the outgoing Ronald Koeman. They huffed and puffed, as well as offering a reported £20 million for the Portuguese, but were thwarted by Watford’s strong stance. 

At the end of the day, both parties got what they wanted. Everton landed Silva once he was sacked, all at the cost of a tribunal and a season of Sam Allardyce, while Watford grabbed a rising star in Javi Gracia

With both clubs setting their sights on breaking into the European qualification spots come next May, getting one over on a closely-placed rival is always going to help.

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Last time they met

When the sides last met during the previous campaign, Watford picked up four points - and could have claimed all six. 

A late Lucas Digne free-kick spared Everton’s blushes at Goodison Park, while Silva’s return to Vicarage Road came towards the end of a tailspin that threatened to derail the Blues’ season. A sole Andre Gray strike gave the Hornets faithful the last laugh over their former boss last February.

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Silva relishing Goodison backing

The Blues boss is relishing getting back to ‘Fortress Goodison’ after a nervy opening day start at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace. Everton had not lost in their last five home games to end last season, and fan preparations are in place to guarantee another raucous home backing.

"It's important for us to play at Goodison, it's not new for you to hear that but it's really important to make Goodison our fortress. We finished really strongly last season at home, playing well and having a fantastic connection with our fans, giving them what they expect,” said Silva. 

"Of course after they played a key part during the game, they were fantastic throughout the season. In our best moment, they were there. In some of the other moments, they were there also. We did well together.”

The Portuguese boss concluded: "I felt our players worked really hard during the week again, with that enthusiasm behind them to come and play a match at Goodison with our fans behind them to get the three points.”

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Gracia aiming for improved outing

As for Gracia, the Spaniard is hoping his side can bounce back from a shock opening day defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion. The Hornets were shellshocked by Graham Potter’s Seagulls as they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.

"If you want you can be positive, if you want you can be negative, but I want to be focused on the truth and the truth is we need to improve," the Hornets boss stated during his pre-match press conference. "We need to improve many things and we're working on that.

"We're working, trying to recover the best things we did in the beginning and trying to improve all the things we can do."

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Team news and predicted XI's

As for team news, Everton face a problem in the heart of midfield. Fabian Delph is still recovering from a pre-season injury, Morgan Schneiderlin is suspended, and Andre Gomes faces a late fitness test.

Summer signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin - who admitted that he wasn’t ready - was thrown in at the deep end during the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace and will likely make his full debut on Saturday. 

Silva has also warned against tasking fellow summer Moise Kean with full starts right away and he could, again, start from the bench. He could be joined by Alex Iwobi, who began training with the club on Monday.

On the flip side, Watford could very well boost their forward lines with Danny Welbeck and record signing Ismaila Sarr. Sarr has been training with the squad but is a ways off being match ready just yet. 

Nathaniel Chalobah will also be available for Gracia's men.

Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Digne, Mina, Keane, Gbamin, Davies, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Richarlison, and Calvert-Lewin.

Watford: Foster, Femenia, Holebas, Dawson, Cathcart, Doucoure, Capoue, Hughes, Pereyra, Deulofeu, and Deeney.