Middlesbrough vs Watford
English Premier League.
Date: Sunday, 16th October, 2016,
Kick-off at 13:30 UK
Venue: Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough.Middlesbrough
Coming back up to the Premier League was going to be a big test for Middlesbrough and Aitor Karanka who is managing at this level for the first time. The goal remains the same as it was in pre-season and that is for Middlesbrough to get to the 40 point mark and make sure they consolidate their position back in the top flight.
It has been a mixed start to the season for Middlesbrough who are down in 16th place in the Premier League with 6 points earned so far from 21 available. The key for any team that wants to avoid relegation is performing well enough at home and Middlesbrough will want to improve at The Riverside Stadium where they have a 0-1-2 record so far this season.
Middlesbrough fans would have loved the 1-2 win at Sunderland in the Premier League, but they have not won any of their last 6 games in all competitions since then and been knocked out of the English Football League Cup too. The side have now failed to win any of their last 5 home games in all competitions going back to last season and Middlesbrough have lost 1-2 to Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur in their last 2 games here.
Former Manchester United full back Fabio and Grant Leadbitter could both return to bolster the squad in time for this weekend's game.
Guessing which Watford are going to turn up is proving to be a difficult proposition from week to week- will it be the team that showed plenty of character in beating Manchester United or the one that limply fell to a defeat at Burnley? Finding consistency in the new style being implemented by Walter Mazzarri might take some time though as Watford look to keep their Premier League status.
The Hornets are 11th in the Premier League having earned 8 points so far this season. They have a 1-1-1 record away from home in the League and Watford have scored 5 goals and conceded 5 in those games.
Watford have lost 1 of their last 4 games in the Premier League but they have lost at Burnley and drawn with Bournemouth since beating West Ham United and Manchester United in back to back games. The side have been 2-0 down in each of their last 2 away games in the Premier League, but Watford did turn the game at West Ham United around for a win although suffered a comfortable defeat at Burnley in their last away game.
Craig Catchcart, Miguel Britos and Isaac Success should all be passed fit in time to take their place in the squad for this weekend.
Head to Head
Watford took four points from Middlesbrough when these teams last met in the Championship two seasons ago and that included a 1-1 result here.
Middlesbrough have failed to win any of their last 3 home games against Watford.
There have been a couple of ways I considered going with this game and that was backing Watford with the start on the Asian Handicap or backing at least three goals to be shared out.
However I have ultimately settled on Watford getting something out of this game as I believe I am surprised they have been set as the underdog in this match. Actually more importantly is how big an underdog they have been set as considering they went to Burnley as a pretty solid favourite and I would suggest Burnley have shown they have more of a home field advantage than Middlesbrough at the moment.
Middlesbrough have not won any of their last 5 home games going back to last season and have been beaten in their last couple of League games here. The Watford defeat to Burnley stands out, but this is a team that has respectable results at Southampton and West Ham United and have also had good recent results at The Riverside Stadium with 3 visits unbeaten.
There is no doubting that Watford can be hard to get a read on when you think of their performances so far this season, but those inconsistencies make them dangerous. With Middlesbrough yet to really get to grips with life in the Premier League and not a team that is going to score a lot of goals, I think Watford to avoid defeat should be shorter than it is.
Watford only lost 1 of their 7 away games at the teams that finished below them last season in the Premier League and so I am going to suggest the defeat to Burnley is an outlier for them. They won plenty of those away games, 4 out of 7, so some might want to take Watford straight up at a big price.
Personally I think they can be backed at the price to avoid defeat and that is the way I am will lean on Sunday.
Middlesbrough have seen Over 2.5 Goals in 57% of their games this season, including 75% of their last four. Watford have seen Over 2.5 Goals in 71% of their league outings, with both teams scoring in 86% of them. Middlesbrough have also seen both sides find the net in 86% of their games.