Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 19/20
The FA Cup returns this weekend for a massive round of games as the competition starts to get down to the business end of proceedings. There are still a number of teams left in the competition that are utilising the FA Cup as a way to help distract their fans from a tough league campaign. Two such sides are Southampton and Watford, and they will be looking to gain a morale-boosting win on Saturday.
This season has been one to forget for Southampton as they are currently embroiled in a battle to avoid relegation. After 24 games they have only won four times, while they have drawn 10 and lost 10, which has seen them onto 22 points. The Saints are currently one point short of Stoke City in 17th and safety, while in their last five they have failed to win a single game which is incredibly worrying for the side. On the pitch, Southampton have managed to score 24 goals, but they have conceded 35 times, which is clearly where their problems lie. If the Saints are able to win, it is usually by a single goal as they struggle to break their opposition down and create chances, while they have been leaky at the back, which means that they have all too often been outscored by their opponents. In order to get to the fourth round, Southampton had to beat Fulham in a hard fought game as they emerged as 1-0 winners. Their progress in the cup will quite likely prove hugely important to their season as they desperately need a distraction from the troubles of the Premier League. Home advantage may play a huge role in this one with the fans vital. If Southampton are able to get a stranglehold on the game, then they will be roared on by their supporters, however, another insipid performance could see the home fans turn on their team, which would only aid Watford’s cause.
Maya Yoshida returns to the side after recovering from a hamstring injury, while Shane Long is back after recovering from flu, but Ryan Bertrand (flu) is out.
Watford, like Southampton, have been struggling massively this season and how they need a win. Of course, their league standing is not as precarious as Southampton’s, but they will know that a continuation of their poor run will surely see them dragged into trouble. After 24 games they have managed to win seven, draw five and lose 12, scoring 33goalsl and conceding 44 times. What is worrying when it comes to Watford is the fact that they collected the majority of their points at the start of the season, with recent months seeing their form enter an incredibly negative run. In their last five they have managed to win just once, while they have drawn once and lost three times. While this may not sound awful, it must be taken into account that one of those defeats came against bottom side Swansea, showing just how dire their situation is. Indeed, the predicament has become such that Watford decided to part company with manager Marco Silva after results had not improved, with former-Rubin Kazan boss Javi Gracia introduced as his replacement. In the case of Crystal Palace and West Ham, a change in management and ideas has helped massively, and perhaps the side are hoping for a similar effect with the relegation zone now just four points behind. In order to get to this stage, Watford breezed past Bristol City in a 3-0 win, but they do not have history on their side when it comes to playing Southampton. In their last five matches, Watford have only won once, with the other four games ending in two wins for Southmapton and two draws. The Hornets will be desperate to arrest this slump, and they will feel like relegation threatened Southampton are a side that they can defeat to kickstart their season.
Watford’s captain Troy Deeney looks set to miss the game as he is still suffering from illness, while Heurelho Gomes, Molla Wague, Craig Cathcart, Nathaniel Chalobah and Miguel Britos remain out, with midfielder Tom Cleverley facing a late fitness test.
This will be new manager Javi Gracia’s first game with Watford.
In the history of this fixture, Watford have edged it, winning eight times to Southampton’s six, while there have been four draws.
The last meeting between the two teams ended in a 2-2 draw.
The two sides have picked up seven points from a possible 30 between them in their last five league games.
Southampton have scored first in five of their last six matches in front of their home fans, which could be vital in the outcome of this game.
This will be an incredibly hard-fought contest with neither side wanting to concede any ground. The FA Cup will be the only real silverware either of these teams can win and, with the competition being so unpredictable, they will fancy their chances. Neither is in particularly good form, but home advantage may see Southampton edge it, with a tough introduction to English football for manager Javi Gracia to come.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 19/20
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