Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Championship clash between Watford and Norwich City, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Watford‘s new manager Xisco Munoz will take charge of his first match at his new club when league leaders Norwich City make the trip to Vicarage Road on Boxing Day.
Both sides were relegated from the Premier League last season, but they have experienced differing fortunes since then.
Although the Hornets currently sit in fifth position in the Championship, Vladimir Ivic‘s short tenure was deemed an unsuccessful one.
Despite containing top-level talents such as Ismaila Sarr, Troy Deeney and Etienne Capoue, Watford have looked laboured on several occasions throughout the current campaign.
Their 23 goals in 20 league matches mean they have the joint-second lowest goal haul in the top half of the table and was a big factor in the board’s decision to let Ivic go after only a few months in charge.
The Serbian boss was relieved of his duties after Watford’s 2-0 loss to Huddersfield Town last time out. The result leaves them four points behind Bournemouth, who currently occupy the final automatic promotion place.
A win against table-toppers Norwich would narrow the gap to Daniel Farke‘s side down to six points and reignite Watford’s push for an instant Premier League return.
The Canaries have been flying of late. Five consecutive victories have seen them establish a five-point advantage over their nearest rivals and threaten to run away with the second tier title.
Finland international striker Teemu Pukki has rediscovered his scoring touch with 10 strikes to his name, making him the division’s fourth deadliest marksman.
Norwich were forced to sell some of their young stars over the summer with Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis departing Carrow Road, but Farke was able to keep the core of his squad together.
The German is now getting the best out of 23-year-old Argentine winger Emi Buendia, and the whole side is reaping the rewards.
When the likes of Todd Cantwell, Buendia and Pukki are in full flight, there are not many Championship teams who can contain them, and a return to the top tier of English football is starting to look inevitable.
Watford Championship form: DLWWDL
Norwich City Championship form: LWWWWW
Xisco will be without a handful of first-team stars at the beginning of his reign.
Winger Isaac Success is expected to be out until March with a ruptured Achilles tendon, midfielder Tom Dele-Bashiru is out for the season with a cruciate ligament injury, and full-back Adam Masina will not be available for selection until February due to a cracked tendon.
Norwich are still without right-back Sam Byram who is suffering from a hamstring injury, as well as left-winger Abel Hernandez, who has been out since October with an abductor tear.
Cantwell scored his first goal of the season against Cardiff City last time out, and the 22-year-old attacking midfielder will be hoping to build on that over the weekend.
Watford possible starting lineup:
Foster; Ngakia, Troost-Ekong, Kabasele, Femenia; Chalobah, Cleverley; Sarr, Garner, Sema; Deeney
Norwich City possible starting lineup:
McGovern; Aarons, Zimmermann, Hanley, Sorensen; Skipp, McLean; Cantwell, Buendia, Martin; Pukki
We say: Watford 1-2 Norwich City
Norwich have scored two goals in each of their last five outings, and we are backing them to do the same on Saturday. Xisco will not have had much time to work with his new squad and has been given a tough task to kickstart his tenure.
The Canaries are in scintillating form and are unlikely to take their foot off the gas anytime soon. A narrow victory for Farke’s men is the most likely outcome in this festive feast and it could prove pivotal in the Championship promotion race.
Top betting tip
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