Watford vs Everton Preview: Both look to bounce back from disappointment last time out
Photo by Getty Images/Tony McArdle - Everton FC

The FA Cup fourth round has now been and gone; one of these teams was knocked out at that stage in their most recent competitive fixture, while the other did not play at all. Of far greater importance to both will be their own meeting here.

With 14 league games still to be contested, hosts Watford are looking to break free from the relegation dogfight which is emerging around them. Despite an upturn in form since the beginning of December, they still sit 19th, languishing on the drop zone due to goal difference. Victory in this match would grant them considerable ground in the battles ahead.

Their last league encounter — a dramatic and damaging defeat to low-lying rivals Aston Villa — bore adverse consequences for the Hornets in the standings, but optimism remains strong; belief in Nigel Pearson's ability to secure another season of Premier League football at Vicarage Road has not yet waned one bit.

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Meanwhile, Watford's opponents Everton are currently just four points adrift of the European places and, with one of the most successful managers in the history of continental football in Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, they will be eager to qualify for the Europa League next season.

Last time out, the Toffees appeared to be heading towards a comfortable home victory against Newcastle United at Goodison Park, but two stoppage time goals from the visitors saw the points shared at the final whistle. It was a bitter pill to swallow for a side on the up under their new manager, and Ancelotti and his players will doubtless be desperate to make amends here.

Previous meetings

The most recent league encounter between the sides took place back in August, when a first-half goal from Bernard was enough for Everton to see off their opponents on a sun-kissed day on Merseyside.

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Since then, the two have also met in the Carabao Cup — strikes from Mason Holgate and Richarlison earned the Toffees progression into the quarter-finals.

However, a very different tale is often told when the sides meet at Vicarage Road. All five of Watford's top flight victories over Everton have come on home turf, and they have not lost there against this opposition since 2007.

View from the dugout

Watford head coach Pearson remains calm and collected despite disappointment last time out in both the league and cup. The priority for him, as always, is to ensure that he and his squad hit the heights they are capable of when the match rolls around.

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"After a couple of difficult results, the players have been excellent," said the 56-year old. "That is a decent indicator, but we've got to back it up with a good performance at home. We have to make sure our own performance gives us the best chance of winning the game. If we get that as close to perfect as possible, we've got a great chance."

Much like his opposite number, Ancelotti emphasised the importance of the display of his own players in what he believes will be a trying task against challenging opposition.

"It will be a tough game," the Italian conceded. "They are playing really well with strong motivation, they're a difficult team to play against. We have to be ready, prepared, and we have more possibility to win if we play well."

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Team news

Pearson has revealed that his squad will be boosted by the return of both Danny Welbeck and Will Hughes who have been sidelined for fairly considerable lengths to time respectively.

This may offset the disappointment caused by the fact that record signing Ismaïla Sarr will miss out again, still recovering from a hamstring injury he sustained against Tottenham Hotspur two weeks ago.

Kiko Femenía, Tom Cleverley and Daryl Janmaat all also remain out for Watford.

Meanwhile, former Hornet Richarlison will return to the fore to face his former club having missed the last two league games with a knee problem.

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Alex Iwobi and Gylfi Sigurdsson are available for selection too, but midfielders Jean-Philippe Gbamin and André Gomes are still out of action.

Predicted XIs

Watford — Foster; Mariappa, Dawson, Cathcart, Masina; Capoue, Chalobah; Pereyra, Doucouré, Deulofeu; Deeney.

Everton — Pickford; Sidibé, Mina, Holgate, Digne; Walcott, Davies, Delph, Bernard; Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison.