As it happened: Watford 1- 0 Middlesbrough: Hornets start season with victory


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That's all from us for now.

Thank you for following along and we hope you enjoyed the coverage.

VAVEL UK will be your home for LIVE coverage throughout the EFL Championship season so we look forward to seeing you again soon.

21:552 years ago

Stand-out players

Aside from Pedro, Chalobah and Cleverley were rocks for Watford in midfield.

Both worked together in attack and defence, supporting the movement of the other and providing cover.

A clean-sheet was the least they deserved.

Premier League performances from the former Chelsea and Manchester United midfielders.

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Post-match comments: Craig Cathcart

"Win was the most important thing... we had to win the second balls. It wasn't the easiest on the eyes...

We prepared well, we've carried that into tonight.

We worked on set-pieces yesterday and had a couple of chances, it worked well in the end.

You saw Pedro's qualities tonight, he will get plenty of goals this season.

Middlesbrough put us under a lot of pressure so overall it was a good performance."

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On the way

VAVEL UK will have all the analysis and post-match comments coming up so please stick with us.
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Next up

Next up in the league is AFC Bournemouth for Middlesbrough, at home.

Watford go on their travels to Yorkshire next Saturday as they visit Sheffield Wednesday.

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The difference

Cathcart's 11th minute goal was enough for victory for the Watford but it was the Hornets' defensive performance that was the difference.

Middlesbrough manufactured 11 shots but only 4 on target and never troubled Ben Foster.

At the other end, Watford had ten shorts with only 2 on target.

Both sides shared only a single clear chance a-piece but will already booking looking forward to next weekend.

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Three points

Neither side will be overly pleased with their performance but Ivic and Watford glad to take the three points after a resolute defensive display in the second half.
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The free-kick comes to nothing but Watford won't care as Stroud blows for the final whistle!
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As the four minutes of added time finishes, Glenn Murray is fouled on the edge of the Middlesbrough box, and that should confirm the victory!
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Man of the Match

Cathcart may prove the difference on the score-sheet but over the 90 minutes, Joao Pedro has proven a constant thorn in the Middlesbrough side.

An exciting and threatening performance by the young Brazilian.

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2 minutes down and 2 to go here at Vicarage Road.

Watford look like they will start the season perfectly, with three points.

Not long left for the visitors to change that.

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Added time

There is to be four minutes of added time in this opening fixture of the 2020/21 Championship season.
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Watford forward, Quina comes off for debutant, Daniel Philips as Ivic changes formation to 4-4-2.
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Late corner for the visitors as Watford fail to clear the danger.

A deep, swinging corner is turned wide from Ben Foster as he deals with the danger.

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Middlesbrough resorting to long-balls now as they grow desperate for an equaliser. 

Watford still look comfortable aside from the chance two minutes ago.

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86' Chance!

A late chance for the visitors from a set-piece as Wilmot brings down Assombalonga on the edge of the box. Assombalonga rises highest in the box from the free-kick but heads it over from 6 yards. Big chance!
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Whilst Watford have not had attacking opportunities this half, they have been very organised and professional defensively.

Assombalonga looks to have finally broken away from the Watford defence but Kabasele quickly back to deal with any danger.

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The game is turning scrappy but still no chances of note for Watford to worry about. 

Middlesbrough struggling to find space in the Watford half to mount a meaningful attack.

Ivic content on the sidelines.

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Ten minutes left for Middlesbrough to find an equaliser against promotion-chasers, Watford but Hornets relatively unscathed so far.


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George Saville makes way for the visitors as Lewis Wing comes on.
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15' to go

15 minutes to go here under the lights of Vicarage Road as Middlesbrough prepare their first change of the night.
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As expected, Navarro replaces the injured Femenia at wing-back for Watford.
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Corner for Watford as Navarro prepares to come on for the hobbling Femenia.

The corner comes to nothing as the visitors go on the counter-attack but Ngakia does well under pressure for the Hornets.

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Visitors on top

Whilst chances have been few and far between, the visitors have had the majority of the possession and four shots to Watford's none this half.
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69' Chance!

Mavin Johnson delivers into Spence, who snatches at the chance and sends it wide from the edge of the box.
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Middlesbrough continue to push for the equaliser but Watford holding on.

Another free-kick for the visitors deep in the Watford half.

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Glenn Murray comes on for Ken Sema for his Watford debut.
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66' Chance!

Great chance for Grant Hall who attacks the corner and gets away from Chalobah, but can't keep his volley down from 8 yards.
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65' Chance!

Assombalonga takes the free-kick for the visitors and curls it over the wall and on target but straight at Foster, who flicks it over for a corner.
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Chalobah gives away a soft free-kick to the visitors in a tantalising position.

Free-kick 25 yards out for Middlesbrough, centre of goal.

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Ivic is planning his first change of the game as Brighton loanee, Glenn Murray prepares to come on.
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A comical moment as the visitors win a corner but Tavernier sends it straight out for a goal-kick as he tries to find Assombalonga 10 yards away...
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Change in approach

Watford have been forced to playing on the counter-attack so far this half as the visitors have the majority of the possession.

However, Ivic doesn't seem to mind with the pace in his side.

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Chalobah cleans up at the back as Middlesbrough pile on the pressure but can't create a clear chance for all their possession.
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Warnock already looking to his bench as he considers his options.

He needs more from his team but his side remain behind by only a single goal.

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The difference so far seems to be where the threat for either side is coming from.

Watford are attacking as a unit, with multiple attacking options whilst the visitors are reliant on individual pieces of magic.

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52' Chance!

Never one to be overshadowed, Assombalonga draws a great diving save from Foster. A strike from 18 yards draws the fingertips of the Watford goalkeeper.
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Like Richarlison, Watford signed Pedro from Fluminense, for the bargain price of £2 million.

Pedro looks to have a very bright future ahead.

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Unbelievable football from Pedro who flicks the ball into space before turning provider for Ngakia.

The young wing-back is unable to bring the ball under control but fabulous skill and vision by Pedro.

Full of confidence.

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Both sides taking some time to warm-up for the second half as they exchange long balls.
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Watford are instantly on the attack but a promising position comes to nothing as Saville goes down injured and Stroud stops play. 
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The second half kicks-off with Watford attacking towards the Rookery End.
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Looking ahead

Middlesbrough will have to find a way to contain Pedro in the second half if they are to keep Watford to one goal.

The young Brazilian has shown wonderful skill and creativity in the first 45 minutes and looks an exciting prospect for the Hornets.

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Second half beckons

Both sides begin to make their way out for the second half as the Visitors looks to find an equaliser and a way back into this game.
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Time for a breather

You have 15 minutes to catch your breath after a frantic first half, safe in the knowledge that VAVEL UK has you covered for the second half and all the post-match comments and analysis.
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And that is half-time.

An enthralling start to the Championship season as Watford lead at the break in an end-to-end game, full of chances.

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Two minutes of added time at Vicarage Road as both sides struggle to retain possession.

A bouncing ball eventually falls to Howson who strikes wide from 20 yards.

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Hosts have had 56% possession so far and 7 shots to Middlesbrough's 4.

The Hornets have had the best of the chances so far but only have one goal to show to it.

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Short break here as Chalobah went down injured after pressure.

After some treatment, the Watford midfielder returns to the pitch with a slight hobble.

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38' Chance!

Good football from Fletcher leads to him creating his own chance on the edge of the Watford box but strikes a volley straight at Ben Foster.
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Spell of pressure here for the visitors as they win a free-kick in the Watford half but unable to test Ben Foster, who comfortable catches a loose ball.
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34' Chance!

Watford lucky as a loose ball in their box falls to a yellow shirt.

A tantalising cross causes havoc in the Watford box but Saville is unable to bring the ball under control for a shot.

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Cathcart on defensive duties now as Middlesbrough win a corner, only for the imposing Northern Irishman to clear the ball 5 yards out.
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Reminder that Watford have 17 players unavailable for today's game, including Deeney, Sarr and Deulofeu.


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29' Chance!

Great opportunity for Pedro from the corner, as he makes a wonderful run around the back of the Middlesbrough defence.

The Brazilian is unable to hit the target from 8 yards but continues to be a threat for Watford.

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Watford back on top here as they win another corner.

Middlesbrough struggling to deal with the pace and creativity of Watford at the moment.

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27' Chance!

Watford go up the other end and are so close to extending their lead as Grant Hall blocks a first-time effort from Pedro 10 yards out.
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26' Chance!

Middlesbrough inches from equalising as Howson lifts the ball into Assomabalonga at the back-post but the captain is not able to get the vital touch.
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Assombalonga finds a metre of space on the edge of the six yard box and chooses to strike from a tight angle.

Ben Foster does well with his feet to deal with the danger.

First good chance for the visitors.

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Middlesbrough struggling to string passes together as they did on the early exchanges.

Watford playing a high press and giving the visitors very little time to pick their passes.

In contrast, Middlesbrough struggling to get close to Watford thus far.

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Superb from the young Brazilian, Joao Pedro, who turns a Middlesbrough defender on halfway, before running 45 yards with the ball before unleashing a shot from 20 yards.

No fear from the Watford striker but straight at the goalkeeper.

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Lively affair here at Vicarage Road as the game goes end-to-end.

VAVEL UK will have you covered for the full 90 minutes so please don't go anywhere.

The game is only just getting started.

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Good response from Middlesbrough who go straight on the attack with Fletcher striking just wide from 12 yards.

The shot took a nick and wins a corner for the visitors.

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Quina plays a short corner to Sema who delivers a ferocious cross on a plate to Craig Cathcart.

6 yards out and getting ahead of Grant Hall, Cathcart sends a bullet header into the corner.

Watford showing Premier League class with the opening goal.

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And onward, Watford come forth again.

Winning their third corner of the game already and GOAL

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A nice early flow to this game as Middlesbrough come forward now through Fletcher and put a few slick passes together before winning a throw-in deep in the Watford half.
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The corner is fired in low but deflected wide from Pedro as Watford develop a foot-hold in the game.
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Quina sends a low ball in that is closed down before Chalobah finds space in the box and wins another corner for Watford.
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Watford win the first corner of the game as Ken Sema turns the Middlesbrough defence after good forward work from Femenia.
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Middlesbrough start on the front-foot and putting early pressure on the Watford defence. 

Former Watford schoolboy, Assombalonga looks energetic and eager early on.

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Both teams take the knee as Keith Stroud blows for the beginning of the 2020/21 Championship season.
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Watford are lining-up in a 3-4-2-1 formation, with Pedro leading the line.


Middlesbrough start in a 3-4-1-2 formation with Fletcher and captain, Assombalonga up-front.

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Z cars

Z cars blazes out at an empty Vicarage Road as the players walk out to a hollow Stadium.
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Under 5 minutes until kick-off

Players are in the tunnel at Vicarage Road and kick-off is now only moments away.
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Pre-game comments: Neil Warnock

The Middlesbrough manager had this to say moments ago,

"I just want to just try and enjoy watching my team. It will be a really big test tonight... we're a bit short on number but I want them to try and enjoy the game although we are playing at a difficult place against a top side.

Optimistic we will get two or three more (players), it's just been difficult getting them through the door."

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15 minutes to go

Both sides are finishing their warm-ups and heading into the dressing rooms for final preparations.

Kick-off is now under 15 minutes away.

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Pre-game comments: Ivic

Watford's 12th manager in 8 seasons has provided some pre-game comments ahead of his first league game in charge,

"It's hardwork... we need to be focussed on our job, work hard day by day and fight for every point.

Generally, this pre-season is not usual for no-one, with covid, but i believe we had enough time to prepare ourselves, to work hard for this season and I hope we did a good job until now.

We are not a complete squad but I hope we will be a good squad."

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According to the Editor of the Watford Observer, former West Ham United wing-back, Jeremy Ngakia is the 122nd player to make a first-team debut for Watford FC since the Pozzo family took ownership in 2012.
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Against discrimination

This season, all EFL clubs will wear shirts bearing the message 'Not Today or Any Day' in the ongoing campaign against all discrimination.

Launched in October 2019, the campaign challenges discrimination and encourages changes in attitude at all levels of EFL football, with the aim of achieving a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination.

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Head-to-head Record

Watford are unbeaten in seven league matches against Middlesbrough (W4 D3) since a 1-2 loss at Vicarage Road in the Championship in October 2012.
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As the journalists and broadcasters continue to take their seats, both sides warm-up under the floodlights of Vicarage Road.

We are now under 30 minutes away from the start of a new Sky Bet Championship season.

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Careless whispers

Watford are without Estupiñán and new signer, Perica, both are nursing minor knocks alongside Troy Deeney, Danny Welbeck, Will Hughes, Ismaila Sarr, Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra.

Peñaranda and Suarez are both ill, as is Craig Dawson, however rumours are afoot that the Watford defender has refused to play tonight.

We will have all the news and views on VAVEL UK as it comes through, right here.

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Middlesbrough line-up

Britt Assombalonga starts upfront for the visitors as Neil Warnock selects a familiar line-up for the opening day of the season.

Starting XI: Bettinelli, Spence, Dijksteel, Hall, McNair, Johnson, Saville, Howson, Tavernier, Fletcher, Assombalonga

Subs: Pears, Fry, Wood, Bola, Coulson, Wing, Browne

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Watford line-up

A month after Ivic joined as Watford Head coach, the Serbian has named his first match day squad for the Sky Bet Championship.

The big news is that Glenn Murray starts on the bench, with Joao Pedro and Quina providing the attacking options for the Hornets in a very surprising starting line-up.

Starting XI: Foster, Ngakia, Wilmot, Cleverley (captain), Joao Pedro, Sema, Chalobah, Cathcart, Quina, Femenia, Kabasele

Subs: Bachmann, Navarro, Sierralta, Pussetto, Phillips, Murray, Sinclair

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Two hours until kick-off

With just under two hours until kick-off, both sides have arrived at Vicarage Road, Hertfordshire for the start of the 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship season.

This Friday night lights game will of course take place in the shadow of the pandemic and no fans are permitted inside the stadium, leaving only the voices of  staff and players to echo around the stadium.

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The clock is ticking

So wherever you are, and whatever you're doing, we hope you can join us here this evening for what should be an intriguing opening fixture of the 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship season from Vicarage Road, Watford.
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Sky sports' David Prutton has gone for the controversial prediction of 2-1 to the visitors, saying:

Middlesbrough will be happy to still be at this level after flirting with danger last season, and Neil Warnock may quietly fancied his team to spring a surprise on a side that may still be a little unsettled in terms of players staying or going. I'm going to back a big away win.

However, on paper, Watford are certainly the favourites. 

After dismantling a strong and organised Jose Mourinho side last week - whilst missing almost their entire starting-line - the Hornets look hungry, ready and raring to go and enjoy the Championship season ahead.

VAVEL UK predict a 2-0 win for the hosts.

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How to follow along

The opening fixture of the Championship will be LIVE here with VAVEL UK or on the box with Sky Sports from 19:45 BST.


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Contrasting fortunes

In the Championship, Watford are unbeaten in their last eight opening day fixtures (W5 D3), winning each of their last three such games.

In contrast, the visitors have won once of their last 11 opening day fixtures, and are winless in since 2014-15.

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Warnock on ambitions and transfers:

“I’m always optimistic, I always think you can push up towards those play-offs. If you can get up there by Christmas, I always think a couple of additions in January and you’ve got a great chance with three points for a win.

“But at the moment, we are short squad-wise. We are working hard. I don’t think [chairman] Steve [Gibson] has ever seen a period where we have missed so many transfer targets for one reason or another continually. But you’ve not got to get down, life’s too short. I suppose that’s the good thing about being my age – you don’t worry about yesterday as much as look forward to tomorrow.”

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Watford coach, Ivic on the season ahead:

Everyone will know that this period was not easy for no one. Not just for us, because with the Covid situation this is a problem with our players, with our staff, which is some quarantine and some of the practice, maybe not a lot and not enough, but this 

“(It’s) difficult for all coaches and that means we must be careful and protect some of them to not get injured because it will be very is the game and will be the same for all the teams.difficult for the players. All this period and this pre-season we didn’t complete how we want, but as I said it’s the same for all the teams. We will see how we go in the league.”

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Middlesbrough Team News

Warnock has no injuries to contend with after his side beat Shrewsbury Town in the opening Round of the League Cup.

Paddy McNair and George Saville are expected to jump straight back into the starting line-up featuring for Northern Ireland during the International Break, with former Hornet, Britt Assombalonga leading the line.

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Watford Team News

Vladimir Ivic is without 11 players as the Hornets squad continues to recover from a gruelling end of the Premier League season in July.

Watford are without forwards, Andre Gray, Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu, as well as midfielders, Will Hughes, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra and Danny Welbeck.

As such, Watford can expect to field a similar side to that which beat Tottenham last week in a friendly, with Quina, Dele-Bashiru playing in front of a midfield consisting of Cleverley, Cholabah, Ngakia and Estupiñán in a 3-4-2-1 formation.

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Looking up

Having survived the drop to League one by just five points last season after the appointment of Neil Warnock as manager in late July, Middlesbrough will be looking upwards and onwards.

However, the squad is looking frighteningly thin, with ten players departing from last season and only two coming in.

Owner, Steve Gibson has expressed his frustration at missing out of multiple transfer targets so far, but Boro will be pleased with the additions of defender Grant Hall and goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, a loanee from Fulham.

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Times are a-changing

Just six weeks after being relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the season, Watford have responded quickly.

New Head Coach, Vladimir Ivic has been joined by Brighton & Hove Albion loanee, Glenn Murray, former Udinese striker, Stipe Perica and highly-acclaimed Jeremy Ngakia, a young right-back from West Ham United.

Owner Gino Pozzo is no stranger to the Championship, having orchestrated Watford's promotion to the Premier League over five years ago, however he is taking no chances this season as the Hornets look for a swift return to the top tier of English football.

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Quick Turnaround

Just 38 days separates the end of the 2019/20 Championship season and the start of the 2020/21 season.

Yet, these teams have not seen each other since competing in the Premier League over three years ago, when Middlesbrough were relegated with just five wins all season. Watford finished 12 points ahead in 17th.

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Kick-off will be 19:45 BST under the Friday night lights of Vicarage Road as the Sky Bet Championship re-commences in style.
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Welcome Back!

Welcome to the opening day of the 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship season.

VAVEL UK shall bring you LIVE coverage of Watford vs Middlesbrough from Vicarage Road at 19:45 BST as the Hornets look to bounce straight back up to the Premier League at the first time of asking.