Watford-Stoke City Preview
Stoke City look to continue their domestic revival with a fourth straight Premier League victory Saturday when they welcome newboys Watford to Britannia Stadium.
The Potters endured their worst start to a Premier League season after failing to win any of their opening six matches. Now Mark Hughes’ side have posted wins over Bournemouth and Aston Villa along with Monday night’s 1-0 victory at Swansea City.
”We started slowly but now we are starting to pick up points with our performances because we weren’t too bad at the beginning of the season we just weren’t getting the points we felt we deserved,” Hughes said.
Jack Butland has posted consecutive clean sheets for the first time this campaign for the Potters. Bojan Krkic’s fourth-minute penalty was the difference Monday.
It’s not clear if Mame Diouf, who has a team-high three goals, will return for Stoke after missing the clash following the death of his mother.
His absence gave Joselu his second start of the season, and the Spanish striker is now seeking his first at the Britannia.
"It was nice to be given a chance to play and I thought I played very well," the forward told Stoke City’s official website. "I work hard every week so I am ready and prepared for our next game. Like every player I have to stay focused and take my chance when I play, that is important."
Captain Ryan Shawcross is not ready to return following back surgery.
Watford make the journey to the West Midlands after being taught a lesson by the league’s big boys with last Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat to Arsenal. The Hornets brought a gung-ho attitude to the match, holding the fancied Gunners at the break before conceding three times in a 12-minute, second-half span.
"We were good for 65 minutes, more than held our own and created a lot of chances, but one counter-attack and that’s the difference," forward Troy Deeney told Watford’s official website.
"All three of the goals were scrappy and it’s a bit harsh in that sense, but that’s the fine margins of the Premier League."
Watford have scored the fewest goals in the top flight with six – five by Odion Ighalo. Deeney has three of the club’s four assists.
The Hornets have the Premier League’s worst shot efficiency, needing an average of 18.5 to get one on target. They are one of two teams without a headed goal along with Norwich City.
"We gave the fans something to cheer about and showed what we can do," Deeney said. "The challenge for us now is to make that 65 minutes last 90 minutes against Stoke away."
These teams last met when both were in the Championship in 2007-08, playing two scoreless draws. The Potters won automatic promotion on the final day of that campaign and haven’t been relegated since.