Stoke City will take on Watford at the Bet365 Stadium in the Championship on Friday, 22 January 2021.
It will be the first time Watford are to visit the Bet365 Stadium since January 2018 when they drew 0-0 in the Premier League.
The Hornets have already endured and finally ended a five game winless run (losing four of them) against Stoke City when the two sides met earlier in the campaign, with a 3-2 home win on 4 November, when Ismaïla Sarr’s late winner sealed Watford’s first win over Stoke City since October 2015.
Stoke City Betting Preview
Winless in seven games across all competitions, Stoke City will be looking for their first victory since 19 December, when they edged past Blackburn 1-0.
Once establishing themselves as regular Premier League contestants (particularly under Tony Pulis) for a decade – until their relegation in 2017-18 – Stoke City have struggled to become promotion contenders but this time, though, they could really become genuine contenders should they manage to improve their form in the coming weeks.
However, the Potters have won just one of their last 9 Championship matches and are now winless in five (0-4-1), starting with a goalless draw at Coventry City on Boxing Day. They have not lost many of those games (1-6-2), indeed, but the six draws are quite a lot and they need to convert some of them into victories if they want to become genuine promotion contenders.
Currently seventh in the Championship table (ahead of Wednesday’s round of games), Michael O’Neill’s men remain in play-off contention and sit four points behind sixth-place Reading, who also have three games in hand to play, but the difference to fifth place Bournemouth is five points.
Former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel now captains the West Midlands outfit and the 33-years-old Nigerian is one of the key figures to possibly inspire Stoke City’s performances from now on.
James McClean returned against Rotherham, coming off the bench after he served a one-game suspension for a breach of Covid-19 regulations, and the experienced Irishman subsently missed the Potters’ draw with Blackburn last weekend.
Another experienced figure, James Chester, who missed Stoke City’s trip to Rotherham United after a red card at Blackburn is set to return in the back line.
Meanwhile, Ryan Shawcross is in self-isolation after a positive Covid-19 test as the veteran skipper has recently returned into action following a long term injury layoff.
Watford Betting Preview
The Hornets extended their solid home record with a 1-0 victory over Barnsley courtesy of Troy Deeney’s first-half blast from the penalty spot. It was Watford captain’s fifth goal of the season – and his fourth successful spot-kick.
Coming off back-to-back home wins over Huddersfield and Barnsley, Watford are now travelling and will hope to end their three-game losing streak away from Vicarage Road.
While the Hornets could boast the best home record in the Championship – collecting 32 points in 13 games (10-2-1) at their Vicarage Road – they have won only one of their last nine away games in all competitions.
All in all, Xisco Muñoz’s men are third in the table, level on points with fourth-placed Reading and just three points behind Swansea City in second. With just two wins and five goals scored in 11 Championship away games (2-5-4), Watford have to definitely improve their away form if they want to boost their automatic promotion chances.
The 40-years-old Spaniard Xisco Muñoz succeeded Vladimir Ivić, who was appointed as head coach of the Hornets in August and was even awarded Championship Manager of the Month for November, last month and kicked off with an impressive 1–0 home win over leaders Norwich City on Boxing Day.
Unlike some other promotion contenders, Watford clearly don’t have a typical prolific goalscorer in their lines and Munoz could switch to a different formation at some point, with new signing Philip Zinckernagel slotting in behind either Joao Pedro or talismanic forward Troy Deeney up top.
Watford’s top goalscorer Joao Pedro (six goals in 18 League games) should lead the line, while new Watford signing Philip Zinckernagel hopes to get his first start for the Hertfordshire outfit. The 26 years old Danish winger joined the Hornets earlier this month, having scored an impressive 22 goals in 31 games for former club Bodø/Glimt, and is ambitious to help Watford return to the Premier League.
Experienced defender Craig Cathcart made his first appearance since the goalless draw at Nottingham Forest in early-December but the Northern Ireland international may have to settle for a place on the bench as September signing Francisco Sierralta is doing fine and the Chilean could again start alongside William Troost-Ekong at centre-back.
Moreover, Christian Kabasele is recovering from a knee injury and the Belgian defender won’t be ready to start here.
First-choice goalkeeper Ben Foster is also recovering from his own injury setback (broken fingers) so former Stoke City stopper Daniel Bachmann should retain his place in goal as the Austrian already started in Watford’s last three games.
Possible Starting Lineups of Stoke City and Watford
Watford: Daniel Bachmann – Kiko Femenía, William Troost-Ekong, Francisco Sierralta, Adam Masina – Ken Sema, Will Hughes, Tom Cleverley, Ismaïla Sarr – João Pedro, Troy Deeney. (4-4-2)
Stoke City: Josef Bursik – Harry Souttar, Danny Batth, James Chester
– Rabbi Matondo, Jordan Thompson, John Mikel Obi, Jordan Cousins, James McClean – Nick Powell, Steven Fletcher. (3-5-2)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
Winless in four home matches and losing three of them (however, keep in mind that two of them were against Premier League sides like Spurs and Leicester City), Stoke City (odds of +215 at BetOnline) will have to drastically improve their overall form in the following weeks as the Potters will also face the likes of Reading and Norwich City in their first two February games.
We believe that Watford (+133 at BetOnline) are looking like the side that have more quality and potential to eventually succeed over the course of an exhausting Championship race and we’re backing them to prevail here.
Spooky Express Free Play: Watford +133 @ BetOnline for 5/10 Units