Quique Sanchez Flores’ side are closing in on the magical 40-point mark which theoretically signifies safety from relegation, and know that a win here would leave them needing just one more point. To reach safety so soon in the season is testament to the job that Flores has done, and Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe will be stealing furtive looks across the dug-out on Saturday afternoon.
Howe has also led his side impressively so far this season though, and will be hoping that the Cherries can reproduce their best form in Hertfordshire after three consecutive defeats. Bournemouth are still far from safe from relegation, and cannot afford to lose again with the bottom sides gradually beginning to catch them up.
The Hornets are likely to stick with the 4-3-2-1 formation which has reversed their fortunes of late, after four consecutive defeats just after Christmas threatened to derail their flying start to the season.
The 4-4-2 system, which had seen Flores’ side reach 28 points by Christmas, appeared to have been worked out by opponents, but the return to form and fitness of Valon Behrami has allowed Flores to adopt a new system.
Behrami is partnered by Ben Watson and Etienne Capoue in midfield, forming a solid base which allows the likes of Jose Manual Jurado and Troy Deeney to express themselves in attack. No goals in four for Odion Ighalo is a small concern for the hosts, but he is likely to be afforded another chance in attack.
Bournemouth have succeeded with an attacking mindset, and are unlikely to scrap those virtues now. The visitors use Matt Ritchie and Marc Pugh as flying wingers, providing plenty of service for new striker Benik Afobe, and that combination of pace and power is likely to be the biggest threat to the Hornets.
Midfield anchor Andrew Surman has been a key man this season, while Dan Gosling and Harry Arter will likely be given the nod in midfield alongside him. The Hornets arguably have the better quality on paper, but Bournemouth’s endeavour and spirit gives them a chance.
When they last met
The sides last met in October, when the Premier League still carried with it that special novelty for both sides. The Cherries dominated much of the affair, while the Hornets still appeared to be settling down into their new system under Flores.
Bournemouth took the lead halfway through the first period, as Glenn Murray rose highest to head home a cross from the right-hand side.
But just before the break, disaster struck. Goalkeeper Artur Boruc’s woeful pass was easily intercepted by Ighalo, and the Nigerian rolled home the Hornets’ first clear-cut chance of the game.
The second half passed without too much incident, until, with 85 minutes on the clock, Capoue was adjudged to have fouled Adam Smith inside the box. Murray stepped up, but Watford stopper Heurelho Gomes was the hero as he pushed the spot-kick behind for a corner. Such a late miss meant Watford travelled home the happier of the two sides with a 1-1 draw.
Spanish playmaker Jurado may well miss out with a calf injury, but Miguel Britos appears to have come through last week’s cup win over Leeds unscathed. Flores is likely to make numerous changes from that cup game, having given a few squad players the chance to impress.
Long-term absentees Tyrone Mings, Max Gradel and Callum Wilson all remain out, with the Cherries likely to dip into the same pool of players that they’ve been forced to settle with since September.
Watford (4-3-2-1): Gomes; Nyom, Cathcart, Britos, Ake; Capoue, Watson, Behrami; Amrabat, Deeney; Ighalo.
Bournemouth (4-2-3-1): Boruc; Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Gosling, Surman; Ritchie, Arter, Pugh; Afobe.
Prediction: Watford 3-1 Bournemouth