Watford are set to travel to Brentford on Saturday in the penultimate round of fixtures in this season’s EFL Championship campaign (of course, not inclusive of the promotion playoffs, which the Bees will be playing in).
Brentford Versus Watford Pre-Match Report
Title Ambitions Still Intact For Watford
With Watford clinching automatic promotion and Brentford guaranteed to finish in a promotion-playoff spot, not too much is up for grabs in Saturday’s clash. Watford can keep the slight hopes of stealing the title from Norwich City alive with a victory, though swiping the first-place spot would require a victory over Swansea City in the final match-week and Norwich City losing their final two matches.
Watford News and Potential Promotion-Party Hangover
At the first time of asking, the Hornets earned automatic promotion to the Premier League. And, of course, the players celebrated as if it were a monumental moment for themselves and the Club, which it for sure was, and they cannot be blamed for their festivities. And now, with the slimmest of chances at winning the title, complacency may creep into the Hornets’ last two performances of the season. But if it does, it will not hurt Xisco Munoz’s men. Their goal has already been achieved. The final two matches will feel more like extra-early pre-season friendlies ahead of their Premier League return.
On the injury front, the Club will be without Kiko Femenia after he picked up an injury against Millwall. Isaac Successreturns to full training while a few other players face late assessments for minor concerns. Squad rotation may occur considering the low stakes of the match (unless Xisco decides the outside chance at winning the title is worth fielding the strongest side for, rather than giving some lesser-played players a chance).
Brentford Team News and Eyeing Momentum (and a Bit of Bittersweet Revenge)
Last year, Brentford were on the brink of promotion, but losses in their last two matches meant they could not overtake West Bromwich Albion, who were an agonizing two points away. Heartbreak after 120 minutes to Fulham in the playoff final subdued the Bees to another Championship season. This year, they were promotion favorites. Keeping hold of some valuable assets while making shrewd reinvestments – namely Ivan Toney – further made Premier League status appear probable. They have even had an impressive run of 22-league-matches unbeaten. Draws have been their Achilles’ heel: only Millwall have shared the spoils more this season.
Three defeats on the bounce in February turned their fortunes for the worse. For most of the season, they had extra matches to play and Watford were effectively playing catch-up. But, Watford’s best-in-the-league-since-Xisco-arrived record ultimately led to uncrossable daylight between the sides. Brentford may feel bitter towards Watford for their promotion, so beating them ahead of the playoffs could give them a morale boost. Nonetheless, a secured playoff spot, but no chance of automatic promotion, means they tangibly have near nothing to play for.
In terms of personnel, Pontus Jansson misses out due to suspension. Mathias Jensen, Tarique Fosu, and Marcus Forssall were on the bench in Brentford’s midweek clash against Rotherham United, so reinstatement into the starting lineup is likely.
Not Much to Separate the Sides
The reverse fixture was Vladimir Ivic’s final home match in charge of Watford. The match saw Brentford thoroughly dominate the first half. In the second half, both sides traded penalties, and Watford had a winning goal denied by an incorrect offside verdict. Especially since Xisco’s tactical switch to a 4-3-3/4-1-4-1, the Hornets look a completely different side from then.
One side already has Premier League football next season. The other side is vying for the same with a chance to secure such through the playoffs. After 44 matches, only seven points separate the sides. Considering the small stakes in this clash at the Brentford Community Stadium, the Bees and the Hornets appear evenly matched.
Score prediction: Brentford 1-1 Watford