After securing their safety in style during the week, Sunderland are able to enjoy their final outing of the season away to a Watford side who will be looking to ensure that manager Quique Flores leaves off the back of a win.
It was a story that had been gaining increasing weight for several weeks, and on Friday it was confirmed that Flores would be leaving after just one season in charge despite defying the odds to achieve a comfortable mid-table position, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup. On the face of it the decision of the club’s owners seems totally illogical, but it has somewhat divided opinion among supporters, with some feeling that the team has been on an irreversable slide in recent months.
That does not mean to say that the likeable Spaniard will receive a positive send-off from all four corners of Vicarage Road as he pulled off a feat that no previous boss has done before in keeping Watford in the Premier League. There will have to be improvements made over the summer in order to remain competitive next term, so it is key that the Pozzo family make the correct choice in selecting the latest in their long line of managerial appointments.
They looked totally helpless in the opening weeks of the campaign before Sam Allardyce took charge, but Sunderland are now a team full of fight and strength of character, with momentum carrying them to Premier League survival after two rousing home victories. As a result of their performances over the second half of the campaign, few can begrudge th Black Cats, who have reaped the rewards of Jermain Defoe’s quality in front of goal and the shrewd transfer dealings of Allardyce.
That was emphasised more than ever on Wednesday as impressive central defender Lamine Kone helped himself to two of the goals as they stormed past Everton. Since his arrival in January, the Sunderland defence has looked much tighter as a unit and he will be a key player for the club going forward, as will Jan Kirchhoff and Wahbi Khazri. More signings like that over the summer and those on Wearside will no longer have to worry about the threat of relegation.
Watford could go unchanged from the midweek defeat at Norwich City, but midfielders Valon Behrami and Etienne Capoue are still absent through injury.
The visitors are set to give some of their youngsters a chance as the pressure is now off, while they have no new injury concerns.
Last Meeting: Sunderland were riding high in the Premier League in November 1999 and victory in a dramatic game at Watford saw them move up to third. Michael Ngonge gave the home side the lead early on, only for Kevin Phillips to reply with a brace to turn things around. A controversial penalty award allowed Richard Johnson to level things up again, but the visitors won it with 20 minutes left through Gavin McCann.