MX23RW : Sunday, May 29 11:18:33| >> :60:1475:1475:
[monks data]
Jan 2, 2016 at 5.30pm UK at Vicarage Road


Kolarov (55' og.)
FT(HT: 0-0)
Toure (82'), Aguero (85')

Preview: Watford vs. Manchester City

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Premier League clash between Watford and Manchester City at Vicarage Road.

Manchester City will hope to close the gap on the top two in the Premier League when they make the trip to an impressive Watford at the weekend.

The visitors will enter the match in third position in the table, three points off leaders Arsenal. Watford, meanwhile, lost at home to Tottenham Hotspur last time out, but a solid first half to the campaign has left them in ninth spot and just two points off fifth.


Odion Ighalo celebrates scoring Watford's second against Liverpool on December 20, 2015© AFP

While it is a good time to be a Watford supporter, those involved with the club will not exactly be relishing the month of January. The fixtures are actually quite kind on paper, but the Hornets might well need to hold off strong interest in their star players. Many predicted Watford to struggle on their return to the Premier League, but a total of 29 points from their 19 matches thus far has left the club in the top half of the table.

From November 28 until December 20, Watford put together a four-game winning run in the top flight, before drawing 2-2 at Chelsea on Boxing Day. It did appear that they would be taking more points off one of the big boys last time out, but Tottenham Hotspur scored late to record a 2-1 win. That defeat against Spurs was their first since suffering the same scoreline at home to Manchester United on November 21.

Head coach Quique Flores has maintained that his side's goal this season is to avoid relegation, but the Hornets are currently 12 points clear of the bottom three and just two points off the top five. Rather than looking down the table, the newly-promoted side have their eyes on a possible European finish this season.

It is difficult to talk about Watford without mentioning Odion Ighalo, who has been quite stunning. The 26-year-old has netted 14 Premier League goals this season and 26 league goals this calendar year - more than any other player in English football. Club captain Troy Deeney has also played his part and earlier this week, the skipper insisted that his strike partner would not be allowed to seek pastures new in the upcoming transfer window.

Watford have faced Man City on 13 occasions in the league and both teams have recorded five wins. The Hornets have not beaten the Manchester side in any of the last eight meetings, however, and they did not record a single shot on target in their 2-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season.

One look at the fixture list shows matches against Southampton, Swansea City and Newcastle United over the next couple of weeks. If Watford can produce another strong result against Man City at the start of 2016, it would certainly aid suggestions that the team could secure an unlikely top-seven finish.

Recent form: WWWWDL

Man City

David Silva jumps on Man City teammate Yaya Toure after he scores against Sunderland on December 26, 2015© Getty Images

Man City won their opening five games of the new Premier League season without conceding a single goal and at that point, it did appear that Manuel Pellegrini's side would run away with the title, much like Chelsea had managed the season before. Fast forward a few months, however, and that is no longer the case. They are still in the title race, but both Arsenal and Leicester City sit above them at this stage of the campaign.

Since losing to Arsenal on December 21, Man City have beaten Sunderland 4-1 and drawn 0-0 at Leicester City. Unsurprisingly, the Blues have the best home record in the league this season - winning eight of their 10 matches, but they have been really disappointing on the road - winning three, drawing three and losing three thus far. That is far from title-winning form, but they are just three points off the top of the table and will fancy Arsenal and Leicester to drop some points along the road.

The new year starts with tough home games against Everton and Crystal Palace, but Man City will then travel to West Ham United and Sunderland, before hosting Leicester at the start of February. Home form has not been a problem this term and that should continue, but Pellegrini's side need to improve on their travels if they are to regain the league title from Chelsea, who bar an incredible turnaround, are already out of the race this season.

Sergio Aguero has had a stop-start season due to injury, but Man City are still the joint leading scorers in the league at this stage, level on 37 with Leicester. Vincent Kompany has also had his injury problems this term and it would be fair to say that Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala have not exactly looked too strong at the back.

Pellegrini still has, arguably, the best squad in the league, however, and with a little bit of tweaking in the January transfer window, Man City should be there or thereabouts at the end of the campaign. Pellegrini will want to end his time at the club on a high as Pep Guardiola reportedly waits in the shadows.

Recent form: WLWLWD
Recent form (all competitions): LWWLWD

Team News

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City kisses the ball to celebrate a goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium on October 3, 2015© Getty Images

Watford will be without the services of on-loan Chelsea full-back Nathan Ake, who was sent off against Spurs last time out. That should open up a spot in the team for experienced Greek international Jose Holebas.

It is understood that Valon Behrami is also pushing for a start after Flores talked up the midfielder's importance during his pre-match press conference.

Elsewhere there are not expected to be too many changes, however, with Ighalo and Deeney continuing their partnership in the final third.

As for Man City, Pellegrini has revealed that Gael Clichy will miss out with "a slight problem" and the full-back will join Kompany and Samir Nasri on the sidelines.

The former champions otherwise have a fully-fit squad and Pellegrini must decide whether to go with Aguero or Wilfried Bony in the final third. Bacary Sagna, meanwhile, is once again expected to keep his place in the team ahead of Pablo Zabaleta.

Watford possible starting lineup:
Gomes; Anya, Cathcart, Britos, Holebas; Jurado, Capoue, Behrami, Abdi; Deeney, Ighalo

Man City possible starting lineup:
Hart; Sagna, Otamendi, Mangala, Kolarov; Toure, Fernandinho; De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling; Aguero

Head To Head

As mentioned, Watford and Man City have met on 13 occasions in the league and both sides have recorded five wins.

Man City are unbeaten in their last eight against the Hornets, however, including three straight wins. The last time that the two teams met at Watford was in April 2007, when the points were shared in a 1-1 draw.

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We say: Watford 1-1 Man City

It has been a tough run of games for Watford, but they have shown that they can more than compete at this level of football. Man City are a serious threat on their day, but Pellegrini's side continue to struggle on their travels.

It could well be a narrow win either way, but we are struggling to separate the two sides, especially at Vicarage Road. Score draw.

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Vincent Kompany of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns on August 10, 2015
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