Watford travel to the Midlands to take on Aston Villa this Tuesday - a clash which could have serious ramifications at the foot of the Premier League table.
The Villans' 1-1 draw at Brighton last Saturday wasn't enough to lift them out of the relegation zone, despite being just a point off Watford. Once again, Jack Grealish rescued Dean Smith's side at the Amex and offered Villa some much-needed respite following their 6-1 defeat to Manchester City the previous weekend.
Watford will be left kicking themselves after Troy Deeney's missed penalty saw them waste a glorious opportunity to beat Tottenham at Vicarage Road last Saturday lunchtime. However, that should not overshadow the superb job done by Nigel Pearson, who has guided the Hornets out of the drop zone for the first time all season since his arrival.
This is the definition of a 'six-pointer' as a win for either side would have serious consequences for both themselves, and those around them in the league table.
Where to Watch
|When Is Kick Off?||Tuesday 21 January|
|What Time Is Kick Off?||19:30 (BST)|
|Where Is It Played?||Villa Park|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||N/A|
Dean Smith is without a host of key names for Tuesday's clash with John McGinn, Wesley, Jonathan Kodjia and Tom Heaton all still unavailable. Villa are also without fringe players Jed Steer and Keinan Davis, while Marvelous Nakamba is a slight doubt for the fixture but will most likely be able to feature.
Pepe Reina will make his second appearance for the club after signing earlier in the window and a front three of Grealish, Anwar El Ghazi and Trezeguet will have to suffice due to a lack of striking options.
Watford have a number of defensive injuries for their trip to Villa Park with Kiko Femenia, Daryl Janmaat and Sebastian Prodl all sidelined for the Hornets. The English trio of Danny Welbeck, Will Hughes and Tom Cleverley will also likely miss the journey but the biggest concern for Pearson is the fitness of Ismaila Sarr, who is doubtful after picking up a knock against Spurs.
|Aston Villa||Reina; Guilbert, Konsa, Mings, Hause, Targett; Luiz, Hourihane; Trezeguet, El Ghazi, Grealish|
|Watford||Foster; Mariappa, Dawson, Cathcart, Masina; Chalobah, Capoue, Pereyra, Doucoure, Deulofeu; Deeney|
Surprisingly, this pair have only met 20 times in the past with Watford winning eight compared to Villa's seven, and there have been just five draws between the two sides.
The Hornets will be aiming for a repeat of the reverse fixture where they comfortably saw off Villa 3-0, despite Adrian Mariappa's red card. A double from Deeney and a strike from new signing Sarr provided a crucial win for Watford, condemning Villa to another dismal away day defeat.
Aston Villa's recent form will be of great concern to fans of the newly-promoted side as results have left the Villans in 18th, albeit only a point from safety. However, an embarrassing defeat to Man City and a winless run of four games leaves Smith's side in a spot of hot bother at the foot of the table - especially given their injury-hit squad.
The contrast could hardly be starker for the Hornets who have lost just one of eight games since Pearson took over, and that was to league leaders Liverpool at Anfield. They have recorded impressive victories over Manchester United, Bournemouth and Villa themselves on their way out of the bottom three, but there is an awful lot more work to be done.
Notably, Watford have kept four clean sheets since the arrival of the former Leicester manager - as many as they had kept in their previous 16 league matches.
Here is each side's last five results in all competitions:
|Brighton 1-1 Aston Villa (18/1)||Watford 0-0 Tottenham (18/1)|
|Aston Villa 1-6 Manchester City (12/1)||Bournemouth 0-3 Watford (12/1)|
|Leicester 1-1 Aston Villa (8/1)||Watford 3-3 Tranmere Rovers (4/1)|
|Fulham 2-1 Aston Villa (4/1)||Watford 2-1 Wolves (1/1)|
|Burnley 1-2 Aston Villa (1/1)||Watford 3-0 Aston Villa (28/12)|
Due to Watford's recent upturn in form, it's difficult not to make them favourites to get a result, despite the game being played at Villa Park. The return of Deeney up front and Pearson's ability to organise the Hornets' defence makes them a completely different proposition, and Villa's over-reliance on the efforts of Grealish may finally be exploited.
However, Watford could struggle if Ismaila Sarr is unavailable as the Senegalese winger has been markedly improved in recent weeks and is beginning to show why he was so highly revered in Ligue 1.
After all is said and done, this promises to be a feisty affair with potentially fatal consequences for Villa in particular, who need to start taking points off those teams around about them in the table.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Watford