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Watford are forced into at least one change as Zarate suffered a season ending injury last time out, with a change of shape to 3-5-2 now looking likely. Janmaat is a considerable doubt and needs a fitness test, with Cathcart potentially taking his place at wing back, where he isn’t a natural. Five are out in total, but only Amrabat is seen as a regular starter who leaves the team any weaker. They’ve been inconsistent at home this season but will genuinely believe they can take advantage of any low morale in the Southampton camp and come out on top in this contest. A draw wouldn’t be a poor outcome but nor would it totally satisfy at home, but their approach is unlikely to be anything more than balanced. They can compete in high scoring games, but grinding out results is their strength They will aim to start quickly and apply pressure from the outset, but if they are unable to force their way ahead they’d become more conservative and balanced. Scoring first would see them drop in and play more on the break, only becoming defensive late on. If they need to chase they will be really direct and attacking, which could make for a stretched contest at either end of the pitch.
Southampton have no new injury concerns but remain without van Dijk, which is an ongoing defensive weakening. New signing Caceres is available but is lacking fitness and isn’t expected to start, with Stephens and Yoshida continuing at centre back. There is a good chance of an unchanged 11 from their League Cup final, though Puel is a manager who does like to tinker with his squad. They need to put their League Cup loss behind them quickly and get back on track in the league. They are in a clutch of teams sitting comfortably in mid-table, but recent form hasn’t been brilliant, so morale could be a little low. There’s not a great deal at stake but they can go above Watford with a win, which is something they’ll believe is possible, but an away point wouldn’t disappoint. Gabbiadini has made them far more potent in attack, so they would be fairly confident in an open contest of taking all three points, but Watford are a fairly well organised unit so it could be a tactical and cagey affair. Southampton will have plenty of the ball and will try to be positive whenever possible, but establishing a balance and being organised themselves will be key for a win.
Verdict & Prediction
Watford’s draw with West Ham last time out was another point towards safety, so they won’t be too disappointed to have dropped points from a winning position. Hosting Southampton they’ll aim for a win to maintain their comfortable gap to the bottom three, but even another draw isn’t a disaster. Their home form has been very patch of late, though it is just one defeat in six, which gives them plenty of confidence to believe they can take something from this contest. Morale is decent as they close in on securing Premier League survival, with a win being a big step towards achieving that goal.
Prediction: Watford +0.50 Asian Handicap (same as Double Chance)
Odds: 1.82 Pinnacle