Two sides determined to pick up their first league points of 2016 meet on Monday evening as relegation threatened Swansea City come up against Watford at the Liberty Stadium.
The reverse fixture between the teams back in September was the beginning of Swansea’s amazing fall from grace, which came suddenly and unexpectedly, and is still continuing now. Their Premier League status is now in serious peril, especially after a home defeat to fellow strugglers Sunderland last time out where they initially showed character to turn an early deficit into a 2-1 lead, but where the harsh sending off of Kyle Naughton proved too big a setback to overcome.
That was one of several bizarre officiating decisions that contributed to the outcome of the match, but the Swans just cannot find any sort of inspiration at present and so badly need a considerable upturn in performance levels if they are to haul themselves out of the desperate position they are now in. Having been given the job of leading the team until the end of the season, Alan Curtis faces a thankless task and the team is all the weaker without the recently departed Jonjo Shelvey.
Three straight league defeats have halted Watford’s progress of late, and their display at Southampton on Wednesday was by some distance their worst of the campaign. Not a single goalscoring chance was created from start to finish as they were a distant second best, lacking the intensity and defensive solidity which have made them such a difficult team to play against, so manager Quique Flores will have demanded a response from his players for this one.
Odion Ighalo has been one of the standout strikers in the top-flight in 2015-16, and if given the ideal service here he will be confident of adding more goals to his impressive tally after seeing the success that Jermain Defoe had against the Swansea defence last week. His side want to reclaim their place in the top half of the Premier League, but if they lose this there will be some concern at the prospect of a slide down the table.
Swansea have a fully-fit and available squad to choose from for this match, after Naughton won an appeal against his red card against Sunderland.
The visitors are still without the services of defenders Joel Ekstrand and Tommie Hoban, who are both recovering from long-term injuries.