Crystal Palace vs Watford Preview: Can Hornets build on Liverpool triumph?
Photo by Getty Images/Marc Atkins

It meant everything in the moment; it could ultimately mean nothing. Watford demolished champions elect and world title-holders Liverpool last weekend, but they must now use it as the thrust for momentum  until the end of the season, starting with a trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday — else relegation may still loom in Hertfordshire.

Their form had been indifferent prior to that victory, with eight points dropped from winning positions in one recent run of three matches. The hope is that the performance against the Reds indicates they have now turned a corner ahead of their final and decisive push for survival.

Injury to club-record signing Ismaïla Sarr had hindered Watford since mid-January, and his return proved quite literally the difference in scoring between the Hornets and Liverpool: the Senegalese international struck the first two goals of the game and set up skipper Troy Deeney for the third.

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So, the objective will now be to discover a positive consistency and, having escaped it last weekend, to climb further away from the drop zone — but there are not many tougher places to go than Selhurst Park.

Palace were also thought to be under some threat of relegation amid a poor spell of form not too long ago, but a couple of victories have them situated in 12th on 36 points, nine above the bottom three and thus as good as safe as the campaign approaches crunch time.

They earned a valuable victory over rivals Brighton & Hove Albion last time out, with striker Jordan Ayew scoring the only goal of the game. Though far from spectacular, it was a performance which epitomised the robust, organised outfit which the Eagles have come to be recognised as under the guidance of Roy Hodgson.

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For Watford, plenty certainly stands between head coach Nigel Pearson and his first Premier League win in London as well as, more crucially, them and their hopes of using this match to move away from the bottom three.

Previous meetings

It was a bore-draw in the reverse fixture at Vicarage Road in December. Watford were still acclimatising to a new way of life with interim head coach Hayden Mullins at the helm following the sacking of Quique Sánchez Flores, and it was viewed as a positive result to hold an in-form Palace side.

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The Hornets won each of the three meetings last season, and all by a scoreline of 2-1, including a victory in the FA Cup which saw them progress to the semi-finals at Wembley Stadium.

Should Watford avoid defeat here, it would mark six consecutive matches unbeaten against Palace, their longest such run when taking on these opponents.

View from the dugout

Palace manager Hodgson is wary of just how large a boost last weekend's emphatic and unexpected victory could provide to the opposition in this fixture.

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“I’m expecting the same type of performance from Watford as they put in against Liverpool," Hodgson said. "They’ll come in feeling very good about themselves and we have to be ready for that.”

Meanwhile, Pearson believes the deadlock between the two sides earlier in the campaign is a better sign than any that a tight contest is on the cards at Selhurst Park.

“We know it’s going to be a very tough game for us. The corresponding game in December was goalless but both sides tried to win it. It wasn’t a boring game of chess, it was two committed sides who nullified each other. It will be a tough game, for sure.”

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Team news

The hosts are boosted by the return of midfielders Luka Milivojevic and James McCarthy, while James Tomkins could also be in contention for a spot in the squad.

Mamadou Sakho and Jeffrey Schlupp are making positive progress in their respective recoveries, but this game will come too soon for the pair.

Palace will have to get used to life without loan striker Cenk Tosun, who has now returned to parent club Everton after sustaining a long-term knee injury.

Meanwhile, Watford must now make do without forward Gerard Deulofeu — the Spaniard picked up a severe ACL injury against Liverpool and is set to be sidelined for at least half a year.

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Daryl Janmaat is the only other injury concern for the visitors, who are unlikely to change more than they need to following their triumph last weekend.

Predicted XIs

Crystal Palace — Guaita; Ward, Dann, Cahill, van Aanholt; McCarthy, Kouyaté, MacArthur; Ayew, Benteke, Zaha.

Watford — Foster; Femenía, Cathcart, Kabasele, Masina; Capoue, Hughes; Sarr, Doucouré, Pereyra; Deeney.