The New Year sees fresh competition for Manchester City. The Citizens travel north of London to face another newly promoted Premiere League side in Watford after drawing away to Leicester this past Tuesday. The holiday crunch of fixtures has resulted in a mixed bag for the Blues, and they are looking to gain their first road victory since 19 Sept against a dangerous team who likely does not fear who is coming into their grounds.
In August these teams met and saw City emerge the victor with two goals from Fernandinho and the goal that opened Raheem Sterling's league account with the club. At that point, City were steamrolling clubs and all players were fully fit, while Watford was still trying to sort out personnel after being fresh out of the Championship. This go-round it is a different situation, City have been rather dodgy over the last month and have had a constant rotation of players in the medical room, whereas Watford have rightfully earned a spot in the top half of the table as they sit in 9th under the leadership of manager Quique Sanchez-Flores and unbelievable production from Odeon Ighalo and Troy Deeney amongst others.
Earlier in the week against Leicester City, City almost respected their opponent too much. Their fluidity and directness was lacking on offense, and that is something that will be essential against Watford this Saturday. Manuel Pellegrini stated in his Friday presser that striker Sergio Aguero is fully fit and expected to play the entire 90 minutes, and with nearly the entire team healthy aside from Kompany and Nasri, expect the team to play up to their potential. A bonus will be that Nathaniel Ake, a Chelsea loanee to Watford, will miss time after facing a ban for a red that he picked up against Spurs on Monday.
While the offense looks potent for City, there will still be apprehension to throw all of their chips forward for as long as Ighalo and Deeney are on the prowl. In the August fixture, Watford did not have a shot attempt for the entire match. One could assume that this will not be the case as Ighalo has scored 7 goals in 6 matches, and a rather hardworking Deeney will seek to cause problems for a back line that has not played well as a unit thus. City held a clean sheet against the Foxes during the week, but the style of play between Vardy and Ighalo could best be compared to a grey hound versus a bulldog. His goals can result from hard work to harder work to being extremely laborious, and such industry will give Joe Hart, Mangala, Otamendi a run for their money.
This will be the 13th Premiere league matchup between these two clubs, and the last fixture that saw City at Vicarage Road was in 2007. It's an intimate ground where the fans are close to the pitch and will do there best to affect the outcome, but City should have the quality needed to prevail the victor. Watford manager Flores said that the last match against Spurs drove his son to tears, we would hate to see a child cry -- but we understand.
Watford vs. Manchester City
Vicarage Road, Hertfordshire UK
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Watford Form: WWWWDL (9th)
Manchester City Form: WLWLWD (3rd)
For more on the history between these two clubs, read here.