After ending their five-match losing streak in the Premier League with a draw last time out, Crystal Palace will be after their first win since December 22 as they welcome Watford to Selhurst Park.
The first half of their game at Swansea City clearly suggested that the Eagles are lacking a little in confidence as a result of their dip in form, which has coincided with a couple of injuries to key players. They were a touch fortunate to be just the one goal behind as several near misses were survived, but they showed good determination to hang in there and find an equaliser early in the second period, with Scott Dann once again highlighting the threat he carries from set-pieces.
Like the reverse fixture back in September, this is likely to be a tight encounter with neither side looking to give much away. That means it could come down to which of the big players perform, and in Palace’s case Wilfried Zaha certainly falls into that category with his speed and direct running. His decision making in the final third has also improved over the course of this season, but too often the strikers have not made the most of the service he delivers.
Watford will hope to show more going forward than they did in their most recent outing away to Tottenham, where they were a distant second best for the full 90 minutes and rarely made any attacking forays. The illness to Troy Deeney that meant he could only be used as a half-time substitute played a part, but even then there was very little in the way of forward momentum, so manager Quique Flores will be expecting a much more competitive showing from his players here.
Indeed, it was the numerous saves of in-form goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes that kept the score to just 1-0 at White Hart Lane, where their opponents very much played with the wind in their sails. That is unlikely to be the case here given Palace’s struggles of late, so the Hornets will sense a chance of moving ever closer to the magical 40-point mark in what has overall been a very positive season so far for the club, but the first goal here will be hugely important in deciding the outcome.
Connor Wickham returns for Crystal Palace following a ban, while fellow striker Dwight Gayle is back from injury. James McArthur and Jason Puncheon remain out.
Deeney is likely to be restored to the Watford starting XI, but they are likely to be without Miguel Britos after he was injured at Tottenham.