Chelsea will be hoping to continue their recent resurgence with victory away to Watford, who have returned to winning ways themselves after their recent dip in form.
Many questions were asked of the home side when they suffered four successive defeats around the turn of the year, but their display in secureing victory over Newcastle United was much more akin to those which have given them such success this term. For the umpteenth time it was Odion Ighalo who provided the inspiration, showing off his natural finishing ability to punish poor Magpies defending, and then to see off Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup at the weekend.
The prime focus for manager Quique Flores here will be to find a way of keeping Chelsea’s rejuvenated forward players quiet, so Etienne Capoue and the combative Valon Behrami may have a key role to play, but it has to be said that the Hornets have shown ambition of their own in terms of their dealings in the January transfer window, signing the likes of Fiorentina midfielder Mario Suarez and the technically gifted Nordin Amrabat.
While wary of the threat the hosts pose, Chelsea now seem to be more focused on their own ability rather than attempting to nullify the opposition, something that perhaps became wearisome under Jose Mourinho. The sense of freedom has returned to their play, and that was very much in evidence as the stormed past Milton Keynes Dons on Sunday in the FA Cup, where the only regret was that they only managed to score five against a very open backline.
Watford are unlikely to give them anything like as much space to exploit, but that win at stadium:mk did allow the Blues to continue to build confidence throughout their team as Eden Hazard – albeit from the penalty spot – scored his long-awaited first goal of the season and Oscar helped himself to a hat-trick. That along with the recent win at Arsenal has lifted Chelsea back to the level they have shown in times gone by, and they will surely be hard to stop for the remainder of the campaign.
Suarez could be given his debut for Watford, who are still without long-term absent defenders Joel Ekstrand and Tommie Hoban.
The visitors have slight doubts over Willian, who was forced off late on at MK Dons. Striker Radamel Falcao is definitely out.
Last Meeting: Chelsea remained in the title race in March 2007 as a last-gasp winner spared their blushes and saw them scrape past the Premier League’s bottom club. Damien Francis and Steve Kabba both missed chances for Watford, and they were made to regret them as Salomon Kalou coverted Andriy Shevchenko’s cross at the death to snatch victory.